A Timeline Of Economic Arguments Against Abortion

Pro-choice advocates long argued that abortion rights save the government money. Some anti-abortion activists have called this argument cynical — but their side talks about money too. Let’s look at the history of the aborted-taxpayer theory.

This theory came up most recently in a Bloomberg story today about the money-saving potential of abortion access. In response to the assertion that “more unintended pregnancies mean more public costs,” Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for Americans United for Life, said, “The unknown and absolute value of life is clear in what a person brings to society.” But Tony Lauinger, chairman of the Tulsa-based non-profit Oklahomans for Life, was not so abstract. He said, “We would argue that our nation would be a healthier nation, a stronger nation, we’d have a stronger economy if we hadn’t aborted 54 million potential taxpayers over the past 39 years.”

This argument is an old one. Below, some earlier instances:

1998

As the Raw Story pointed out, that wasn’t the first instance of the argument. In 1998, Larry Burkett wrote an essay called “The George Bailey Effect: Abortion-on-Demand and the Implications for America’s Economic Future,“ in which he argued that “it is largely because of abortion-on-demand that by the year 2030 the ratio of workers to Social Security beneficiaries will be reduced to only 2-to-1.”

2001

A report by the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund claimed that “the ethical argument (that all human beings are created equal) and the economic impact (harshly negative) speak with one voice. Abortion is bad both morally and economically.” It went on to argue not only that abortion undermines Social Security, but also that it doesn’t save taxpayers money, because, “even an indigent child, over her lifetime, returns in taxes 3.7 times what was spent on her and her mother in cash welfare and food, housing, and medical assistance.”

2003

A post at Scholars Corner made the Social Security argument and added that if no abortions were performed, “40 million more boxes of cereal would be sold each week. We’d need 1 million more homes each year, cars, clothes, etc.”

MLADEN ANTONOV / Getty Images

2005

A World Net Daily article managed to argue that Social Security is bad, that abortion is destroying it, and that financial concerns shouldn’t matter:

For those of us who believe abortion is the taking of an innocent life, the tragedy is not financial, but the lives that are being snuffed out. […] Politicians can scream and posture all they like, but the fundamental reality is that [Social Security] has been heading for bankruptcy for many years, only no one would admit it until now. And abortion is helping to speed up the inevitable shipwreck.

2007

Mark Crutcher wrote for Pro-Life News, “The designers of social security based it on an assumption of an ever-growing, or at least stabile, workforce. They could not foresee that America would one day legalize the wholesale slaughter of its own children.”

Jason Getz / AP

2010

Bev Cielnicky, President of Crusade for Life, connected abortion to illegal immigration: “Why is illegal immigration in America needed? We have killed 50 million of our work force through abortion.” She explained, “In Europe the work force is made up of Muslim immigrants who are having much larger families than the Europeans and are actually taking over certain parts of countries when their population reaches a majority and then they insist on imposing ‘sharia law’ on everyone.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

March 2011

Rick Santorum made the aborted-taxpayer theory famous last year, when he said the problem with Social Security was that “we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees,” because “a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion.”

July 2011

A 2011 LifeNews article quoted Burkett and also scored the hat-trick of criticizing Social Security, claiming abortion is destroying it, and adding that monetary arguments are odious. Writer Bill S called Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” but argued that “the removal of millions of taxpayers from the face of the earth – those who would have become contributors – has undoubtedly contributed to the entitlement mess in which we find ourselves today.” He added, “Is all of this a cold, heartless analysis? Perhaps. But it’s little different from the comparison that numerous social liberals have made regarding the tax ‘benefits’ of illegal aliens.”

It’s clear that both sides of the abortion debate use monetary arguments, and have done so for some time. So neither side can plausibly claim its partisans are above all that. That’s a more natural — and indeed, more common — claim for anti-abortion advocates, who argue that their policies are rooted in religious conviction. But that clearly hasn’t stopped them from talking about cash.

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