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May 23, 2005



Shouldn't the question regarding abortions performed be the rate, as in the number per childbearing age women--instead of the absolute total. As the total population increases each year (while that's not the relevant total), the number of abortions could be expected to rise, but the rate as against the relevant population would be the better measure.

Would someone explain to me what this "number of abortions" debate is about. Is the President supposedly responsible for all the abortions performed?



The increase in the "number of abortions" become relevant in the context of a "Just Say No"/ “Condoms don’t really work” / “Abstinence is the only way” mindset that our President has espoused on many occasions. Many of the abortion opponents oppose contraception, condoms, sex education in the schools, or any other teaching or device that promotes or even allows for the possibility of sex without penalty or pregnancy. In short, don’t “do it” because sex for anything other than reproduction is “bad”.

Sex is so “bad” we use it to sell practically everything. Winking “come hither” babes selling beer, wet tee shirted dancers selling tires, babes covered in coal dust hawking “energy independence”. I mean, really, models in a coal mine?

Why can’t we get behind reducing abortions through education, contraception, and the morning after pill? Because certain people equate sex with sin.


Given that Dr. Dean supports state-by-state guidelines, when can we expect him to offer his full-throated support of overturning Roe v. Wade? And will he order Democratic attack groups to stop label justices as "extreme" if they agree with the DNC's head?

Toast, you're going to have to point to statistics and whatnot that show A) the areas in which "Abstinence Only" is being taught and B) that those areas are where the "rise" in abortions is eminating from. Until you do so, that thread is pretty much irrelevant. For all we know, it was due to Kerry supporters copulating early in the Nov. 2 evening then changing their minds after the exit polls proved false...


Given that Dr. Dean supports state-by-state guidelines, when can we expect him to offer his full-throated support of overturning Roe v. Wade? And will he order Democratic attack groups to stop label justices as "extreme" if they agree with the DNC's head?

Toast, you're going to have to point to statistics and whatnot that show A) the areas in which "Abstinence Only" is being taught and B) that those areas are where the "rise" in abortions is eminating from. Until you do so, that thread is pretty much irrelevant. For all we know, it was due to Kerry supporters copulating early in the Nov. 2 evening then changing their minds after the exit polls proved false...


What American teenager doesn't know about contraception?
I remember in Jr. High, the health teacher said he wasn't allowed to tell us boys anything or he'd be run out of town. Yet we all knew about rubbers and where to get them, even if they were sold behind the counter and embarrassing conversations with the druggist had to take place first. What we didn't have then was the access to abortion; so most guys kept their johnson in their pants and made up brag stories, and most girls were "good" and didn't let you past second base.
Dr. Dean should be happy that Bush apparently hasn't intimidated very many into giving up their independence and eschewing the abortion choice.


Toast: Thanks for the explanation regarding the abortion numbers question. The balance of your comments spoke legions about the issue of sex, and its proper place in public discourse.

Can you have sex without penalty or pregnancy? Should government promote such behavior? Concepts of sexual licentiousness and promiscuity are judgemental, and therefore out-dated? (Perhaps the post-modern deconstructionist pendulum has swung too far?)

That sex is "used" to sell everything doesn't strike me as an argument justifying its commodification and objectification, thereby reducing sex to the lowest common denominator of behavior, as brushing one's teeth.

That there are two sides to the abortion question is a no-brainer. Why the gulf between the two sides needs to be bridged is a question unlikely to be solved, IMO.

And as to your concluding witicism regarding "reducing abortion through education, contraception...", and given your silver bullet answer of teaching and promoting "sex without penalty or pregnancy," it would seem that you haven't paid attention to the outcomes of these policies for the past 30 years--at least as it regards reducing the number of abortions.

Perhaps "sex without penalty" is a charade.


On vageuly related tangent, there is an interesting argument in Freakanomics that abortion is one of the major causes in the decrease in crimes in the 1990's. I.e. unwanted children, who would have been reared poorly, never were born, and didn't get a chance to become criminals. Of course, its not all left-wing propoganda, if you take a fetus as 1/100 of a life, you don't make up in terms of lives saved.

Something reasonable could be done to significantly reduce the number of abortions if we had more "reality-based" republicans.

Uh Forbes, absitence only education does not work. There is a lot of data to back this up, none that I can cite of top of my head, but Google is your friend.

Again in freakonomics, the more liberal the abortion policies, the greater the # of people who use abortion as birth control. I'm sure there is a decent balance between the two, that can at least cut the # in half. IF you really think abortion is a moral outrage -- than some sinful sex should be a pragmatic compromise for the moment.


Uh Jor, perhaps you meant to address Farris as the word abstinence--much less the concept of abstinence only education--is not mentioned in my comment. Cheers.


SaveFerris & Creech, thanks for being examples. IF either of you go to pubmed and search for absitinence only education -- you can find a bunch of studies and statistics. It seems pretty clear that (1) Teaching about contraception does help (2) Absitinence only education is minimally to completley non-effective.


Er, what I meant to address to you Forbes was that "Sex without penalty" Is not a "charade". Birth Control and Condoms are very effective. If you don't use them though, they can't help.


The Freakonomics notion about abortions and crime was tackled by Steve Sailer, who looks quite convincing on five minutes inspection.



One must define “such behavior.” Our commerce promotes “sexual licentiousness and promiscuity” in pursuit of higher sales of products and it seems we think nothing of it, yet a program to promote “safe sex” is a moral anathema. Seems to me your response makes my point – you zero in on “sex” while I would rather emphasize “safe”.

If we want to promote personal responsibility among the young, ISTM the place to start is “safe sex”.

Which is better?

1. “Sex is tons better if you wait for someone you care enough about to be concerned with the possible results of sex, but if you can’t or won’t wait – be smart, be safe.”

2. “Sex is outside of marriage is wrong and God will punish you with disease or pregnancy.”

3. “If you have sex, statistics show that you have X possibility (a better than even chance) of not catching a disease or having a baby (and the baby is her problem anyway) but you just might increase the number or abortions in this country because you didn’t take the possibility of pregnancy into account.”

Needless to say, I gave my son the first speech.


TM, Steve has a link to the Freakonomis blog that looks a little more convincing to me. Of course with the bias, that I read the book.

Stealing the analogy from the aforementioned link
To anyone who actually made it this far, I applaud you for your patience. Let me simply end with an analogy. Let's say that we are living in a world in which global warming is taking place, but also a world in which El Nino occasionally leads to radical, short run disruptions in normal weather patterns. You wouldn't argue that global warming is false because for a year or two we had cold winters. You'd want to figure out what effect El Nino has on winter weather and then see whether controlling for El Nino it looks like global warming is taking place. The impact of legalized abortion on crime is a lot like global warming -- it is slow and steady and grows a little year by year. Crack is like El Nino, it comes in with a fury and then largely disappears. That is why I have invested so much time and effort in understanding both abortion and crack, and why the criticisms made against the abortion-reduces-crime hypothesis to date have not been very compelling.


Jor: I appreciate your certainty that "sex without penalty" is not a charade. I submit the evidence is not in your favor.

Nature bestows many penalties, from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, to pernicious behavior between men and women that result from the objectification of sex, among others. That birth control and condoms may prevent some, but not all penalties, suggests they are, at best, only a partial answer. That birth control and condoms contribute to the aura of "sex without penalty," they then reinforce irresponsible behavior that results in the easily forseen, though unintended, penalty outcomes.

A society that chooses to acculturate its adolescents, regarding sexual relations, with all the delicacy of brushing one's teeth is suggestive of the resultant adverse outcomes.



I'll agree that society imposes many penalties, but I'm scratching my head about what penalties nature imposes other than disese. Seems to me that, from nature's point of view (preservation of the species), pregnancy is not a penalty (its not a bug, its a feature).

Steve Sailer

In his bestseller "Freakonomics," which argues that legalizing abortion cut the crime rate by pre-emptive executing fetuses likely to grow up to be criminals, Steven D. Levitt conveniently forgets to mention that the teen murder rate among the first generation born after the legalization of abortion was close to three times higher than the teen murder rate of the last generation born before legalization.

Similarly, the juvenile "serious violent crime" rate approximately doubled. Interestingly, the late 80s-early 90s surge in teen violence began precisely in those metropolises where abortion was legalized in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade, and it began among that demographic group, urban blacks, that was first to make heavy use of legal abortion.

One thing Levitt does mention is that after legalizing abortion, the birthrate fell by only 6%, while the pregnancy rate soared by almost 30%. In other words, legalizing abortion caused tens of millions of unwanted pregnancies. That makes his "abortion cuts unwantedness" explanation look awfully simplistic.

For more information on what the press isn't telling you about the link between abortion and violent crime, see http://www.iSteve.com/abortion.htm


Steve, I saw your page, but the I think your skating on thin ground arguing illigitmateness = unwantedness. They are two different things, and legalizing abortion probably reduced any correlation between the two.


Forbes, I'm not aware of a study that links contraception education with increased sexual behavior. If you have the evidence, I'm more than willing to look at it.

Les Nessman

“Sex is tons better if you wait for someone you care enough about to be concerned with the possible results of sex, but if you can’t or won’t wait – be smart, be safe.”

True enough but for the 'can't wait' part. I don't think I'm being pedantic to point out that teens don't 'have' to have sex. If they (ill-advisedly) choose to have sex, there's a reasonable chance for dire results, which brings me to:
"..but I'm scratching my head about what penalties nature imposes other than disese. Seems to me that, from nature's point of view (preservation of the species), pregnancy is not a penalty (its not a bug, its a feature)."
An unplanned, unwanted pregnancy may very easily be a very heavy penalty for a teenager, no matter how they handle it.


Toast: I appreciate your concern regarding promoting "safe sex" as a moral anathema. And yet that is hardly the case. Condom instruction, distribution, STDs and all sorts of birth control methods have been regularly taught for years and years.

The only "safe sex" is no sex. This is hardly a debatable point, as there are no fool-proof methods.

Your choice to promote personal responsibility among the young by promoting irresponsible behavior--sexual relations before they're mature enough, or prepared, for a committed, life-long relationship--appears to be a content-free message. What kind of expectations--with such value neutral and morally ambiguous guidelines as "if it feels good do it, if you can't wait,--will adolescents develop for the commitment to a marital relationship? and to marital fidelity?

And I don't know about you, but God doesn't give anybody a sexually transmitted disease, or an unintended pregnancy. Those are the biological result of the action of mortal men and women. (If a parent wishes to strike the fear of God upon a child in order to reinforce a moral teaching, so be it.)

Needless to say, I found your three suggested approaches to be false choices.

And I wonder about the sons who are told to "be safe", if you're gonna have sex. (And what do girls' parents think about other parents not discouraging their sons from having sex?) What happens when the son finds himself involved in an unwanted pregnancy (or an STD)? Would he (should he) feel that he made a mistake? Perhaps the girl is pro-life, will he take financial responsibility for the baby? Or is it only the girl's responsibility? What, if any, lesson(s) will be learned? What teaching momment, as a parent, will be available--as one who indicated your approval to his having sex--if he can't or won't wait? (Frankly, why shouldn't he be taught to wait? Is he nothing more than an animal who can't control his urges?)

It seems to me that if you're proposing the safe sex route, you need to go alot further down the highway than the condom rack at your local drug store.

Unintended pregnancies and out-of-wedlock births, are not exactly a new phenomena--Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote about this problem back in 1970, IIRC--and in addition to abortion, they certainly seem to be a growth industry ever since public schools got into the business of sex education.

Perhaps schools should get out of this business, and leave it up to parents and other community organizations--groups that did just fine for the preceeding millenia. Maybe then, Johnny can learn to read and write.

richard mcenroe

Quoting Kerry and Dean always provides hours of innocent merriment, but what say we quote a few of St.Hillary the Anointed's speeches to NARAL?


Jor: I'll leave it at this. After 40+ years of contraceptive education, that nirvana known as "sex without penalty" has not been reached. I'm not suggesting some trendline, I'm stating the numbers of abortions, out-of-wedlock births, and STDs, as a proxy for "penalty".

TT: "Unwanted" is the operative word, regarding pregnancy, as Les Nessman commented, above.


Forbes, if you refuse to look at the data, there really is nothing I can say to you. Pubmed.Gov, its your friend.

The number of abortions in America is an atrocity, and there is no reason to use abortion as contraception (like it currently is). What's sad is the most pragmatic solution to decreasing abortion (increased contraception) has no political base group -- although I'd bet the silent moderate 15-30% who don't approve of abortion, but don't want to outlaw it either -- would support it (even though they are quiet).

As is evidenced by this discussion, it's unfortunate that there are very few pragmatic people on the pro-life side of the fence.


Jor: Pray tell what data am I supposed to look at beyond abortions, unwanted/out-of-wedlock births, and STDs? That mankind is perfectable, that sex without penalty is possible, if only more education is made available. You're operating in the world of utopianism--if only if, if only if...

Or is it forced contraception? How about a policemen in the bedroom, making sure you wear a condom?

Other than an analogy to global warming (which is curiously off topic), I'm still looking for your pragmatic ideas.

And my friend, you've jumped to a conclusion you've no basis; I've not staked out a pro-life position, but the abortion on demand, abortion as contraception side of the argument has nothing new to offer--except to try to blame the pro-life side for the number of abortions, which I find not only laughable, but indefenseable.

My argument has been that when you teach adolescents (falsely) that sex has no penalties, that when you teach adolescents--of varying levels of maturity in co-ed classrooms--the elements of sexual relations with all the nuance of programming a VCR, that when you provide instructions regarding sex in a values free and morally ambiguous manner, you reap the adverse consequences of such lessons.

Joe Mealyus

On a very different topic, did anyone notice the way Dean a couple of times used "health care" instead of just saying "abortion?"

"The issue is whether a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care...."

"But when you talk about framing this debate the way it ought to be framed, which is 'Do you want Tom DeLay and the boys to make up your mind about this, or does a woman have a right to make up her own mind about what kind of health care she gets'...."

Maybe Dean is trying to put into practice the ol' Chomskyian/Akerloffish linguistic theory that politicians can fool the people by simply choosing their terms cleverly. So maybe if Democrats say "health care" often enough (as a synonym for abortion), this will make their position on the issue more popular.


Forbes, case in point, I'm not interested in sex with no penalities. I'm interested in decreasing the # of abortions. I'm not living in utopia, they aren't all going to go away, but they can be cut. If you just teach the truth about sex, stds, and contraception (just medical facts) -- to all teenagers -- you could probably significantly reduce the number of abortions without really increasing teen sexual behavior.



There is much more to that “speech” than the one sentence. Perhaps I should add the other parts – but I get the impression that it would be pointless.



Rereading your last comment, I will add the other parts.

1. Sex is, basically, a biological function that has evolved to assure the preservation of the species by assuring that genes are widely dispersed since genetic diversity makes the survival of the species much more likely. It is a basic function, and so the desire for it is a basic human and animal trait controlled by the most elemental parts of your brain. We are hardwired to want sex, so your desires are not at all abnormal. In fact, you are at the age where sexual desires are the strongest because yours is the age at which a successful pregnancy (the biological goal) is most likely.
2. However, while we share sexuality with the animals, we are not animals. We are civilized beings operating in a civilized society that imposes rules of behavior designed to promote harmony within that society. (Other animals can also impose rules of behavior concerning sex, such as alpha male dominance, but most human societies don’t do this.) In other words, our upper brain functions impose limits on the impulses and desires of our lower brain. It’s this dominance of the upper brain in the form of rules of civilization that limits your ability to do whatever you please with respect to sex.
3. Different societies create different rules regarding sex depending on the needs of a particular society. Since we live in this society, its this society, and not nature or other societies, that creates rules about when sex is appropriate for its members and it’s the society we live in that will punish you if you break them.
4. It’s not “fair”, but the reality is that your girlfriend will be punished far more severely in our society than you will by breaking the rules. If you look around you, you will see that our society sends young men like you many messages that seem to encourage you to have sex – early and often. Girls have historically been encouraged to resist your advances, because, unlike you, they can’t hide the result. However, this is changing as reliable contraception (and, regrettably, abortion) has become available.
5. This difference is quite understandable in a biological sense because your genes are more likely to survive by propagation and her genes are more likely to survive through nurture. You have the ability to have far more children than she does, so any one child is more “valuable” to her. Our society has deemed it more valuable to support her way of thinking and therefore encourages monogamous relationships that tend to encourage you to assist her in raising a child and to prevent conflict between you and your competition for her attentions. Other societies have made different choices in line with their needs.
6. You also must remember that her father will take the female’s point of view with respect to his daughter. Why? Because in addition to his love for her and desire that she not get hurt, the survival of his genes demands the nurture strategy with respect to his genes through her as opposed to the propagation strategy if he were the “participant”.

So after all this what’s my advice?

a) Wait. Don’t take the first opportunity that comes along. Believe me, there will be many more.
b) Sex is tons better if you wait for someone you care enough about to be concerned with the possible results of sex. Why? Because if it is part of a relationship, then it has meaning beyond the satisfaction of a biological urge. Sex changes everything in a relationship. If you don’t have a strong relationship with a girl before sex, sex will not create one.
c) Try to avoid getting in a situation where you “can’t” wait. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to “prove your manhood” – either to your friends or your girlfriend.
d) Let the decision to have sex be a decision you make with your upper brain – and not a decision driven by your impulses.
e) When you have really thought about it and the time is right for sex – be smart, be safe – use contraception and condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancy and disease.
f) Finally, whatever you decide, your mother and I will be behind you. Don’t ever be afraid to call on us because you think we might think less of you or punish you. Your trouble is our trouble – and like it or not, it will always be that way. Whatever the problem, we are with you.


TT: Thanks for the response. The follow-up post set me straight on the "speech" you were referencing.

Jor: What country are you living in?

"If you just teach the truth about sex, stds, and contraception (just medical facts) -- to all teenagers..."

Are you suggesting that this isn't going on in every community in America (no doubt there are isolated exceptions)? And that in every large urban area where the number and rate of abortions are the highest, the facts about sex, contraception, and STDs are not getting out?

I can only speak informatively about NYC, but they hand out condoms in high school, last I checked. And sex education is taught accross the school years. How much more is necessary? (From an accountability standpoint, the sex education is a success, because the teens are having sex. If only the rest of the curriculum could be so successful!)

While I'm sure we won't agree on the appropriate strategy, if it doesn't include approaches to reducing teenage sex, then you're fighting a losing battle.

Adolescents need guidance, they need limitations set for them, they need to learn to say no--and instictively hold values that serve as a foundations for that self-limiting behavior. These are not acculturating behaviors that simply occur to teens out of thin air. Parents and teachers that do not set standards and limitations for acceptable behavior are setting teenagers up for chaotic lives because you've failed to pass on the accumulated knowledge of generations. Children having babies is not a lesson that needs to be re-learned by every generation. Single motherhood is a route to poverty and dysfunctional families. Teens explicitly told that safe sex is OK, are implicitly being encouraged to have sex, because no one is telling them not to.

An approach based on more sex education, that hopes to "probably significantly reduce the number of abortions without really increasing teen sexual behavior" is not a persuasive argument, IMO. Your results may vary.

Les Nessman

I don't mean to be pedantic, I really don't. But you said it twice, so will I.:

"c) Try to avoid getting in a situation where you “can’t” wait. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to “prove your manhood” – either to your friends or your girlfriend."

I understand your sentiment and agree with it. However, is it too much to ask that we raise the bar to the level that it should be at, instead of lowering it to where we know most immature teens will actually pass?

Start saying it like this :

c) Try to avoid getting in a situation where you *think you* “can’t” wait. Don’t put yourself in a position where you *think you* have to “prove your manhood” – either to your friends or your girlfriend, because you CAN wait. You only think you can't. You DON'T have to prove anything thru sex. You only think you do.

Lynxx Pherrett

The Alan Guttmacher Institute released their 2001 and 2002 abortion estimates on May 18th. They show a continued decline (0.9 percent) in both years - completely invalidating Stassen. Commentary and links to the AGI and CDC reports here.


Forbes, the suggestion I'm stating is empirical -- it can be tested on a small scale, and measured to see if it works or not. So for the moment, grant me a hypothetical -- and presume with greater and better education that we could cut the number of abortions in half and only have marginal effects on teen sexual activity. Would you be willing to sacrafice one of the corner-stones of the culture wars to decrease the number of 'deaths' by half? If you had to ask me why this hasn't happened, I'd guess its because the people fighting the culture war have clearly stated their priorities, and the moral tragedy of abortion isn't on the top of the list except as a motivational and rhetorical tool. But that's just my 2 cents.


Jor: Gladly grant you your hypothetical.

But a natural response would be: On what basis can you presume "greater and better" (sex?) education would reduce the number of abortions by half (or even a lesser amount), with only marginal effects on teen sexual activity? More hours of instruction across more school years? At the price of longer schools days, or in place of other parts of the curricula? And better sex education? Given the down trend in K-12 outcomes, this is highly suspect criteria. (And is there some underlying reason not to want to reduce teen sexual activity. In other words, are there no negative implications to teens having sex?)

Your hypothetical is exactly the target of the perfectability of man and utopianism critique I offered earlier. I don't think you can establish that the amount of sex education adolescents receive falls short of fully informing them regarding sex, sexual reproduction, contraception and STDs.

(And without giving away my age--in my time in school, we took one semester of Health in seventh grade, and a full year of biology in ninth grade; a full and adaquate discussion of sex, contraception and STDs. Nothing about sex has changed, AFIK, except there's far, far more sex education, and there's far, far more teen age sex. Draw your own conclusions.)

In fact, I believe the stronger argument is that there are serious shortcomings due to the values-free, morally ambiguous nature of sex education. (And I appreciate that some don't want public schools teaching morality--but then they should leave the subject matter alone because they're not properly arming students with the necessary tools. And this prompts the question, what do the schools have to say about drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and illicit drug usage.)

And if you see this matter as part of the culture wars (at least as defined as pro-life vs. pro-abortion), well, I'm sorry. (And I'll grant you that it probably is for some/many people.) I view it as an issue regarding teens having sex--and often--because parents and teachers have failed to establish the bright lines of conduct, and the associated behavioral guardrails, which would aid and complement teens' maturation into adults.

Now, if you see it as part of the politically correct, judgement-free, no absolute truths, only socially constructed power relationships culture war, then I'll grant you your 2 cent observation.

If abortion is the moral tragedy that you suggest it is, then teens having abortions must be a moral abomination. We have all sorts of laws effecting the conduct of minors; that as minors they lack the ability to make an informed consent, and therefore are prohibited from certain conduct. That many people choose to look askance regarding such conduct, ISTM, is putting morality outside the culture wars, as well.

Thanks for the discussion. I'll leave it at that, as I feel I'm going over the same ground. The last word is yours, if you care to.


Should be: "...affecting the conduct..."

in next to last graf.

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