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The Roe Effect: The right to abortion has diminished the number of Democratic voters

James Taranto

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Roe v. Wade is a study in unanticipated consequences. By establishing a constitutional right to abortion, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court no doubt thought they were settling the issue for good, accelerating a process of liberalization that was already under way in 1973. But instead of consensus, the result was polarization....

Polarization over abortion coincided with a period of Republican ascendancy. Since the parties split on abortion, the GOP has won five of seven presidential elections, and no Democrat has had a majority of the popular vote. Republicans took over the Senate in 1980, and both houses of Congress in 1994. Obviously, many other factors have contributed to Republican success..

This is not to say that America has embraced the near-absolutist pro-life position that the Republican Party formally endorses. Most Americans are moderate or ambivalent on abortion, rejecting the extreme positions on either side. One reason Republicans have an advantage is that as long as Roe remains in effect--taking off the table any restriction that imposes an "undue burden" on a woman seeking to abort her pregnancy...The Democrats, on the other hand, must defend such unpopular practices as partial-birth abortion, taxpayer-subsidized abortion, and abortions for 13-year-olds without their parents' knowledge.

Compounding the GOP advantage is what I call the Roe effect. It is a statement of fact, not a moral judgment, to observe that every pregnancy aborted today results in one fewer eligible voter 18 years from now. More than 40 million legal abortions have occurred in the United States since 1973, and these are not randomly distributed across the population. Black women, for example, have a higher abortion ratio (percentage of pregnancies aborted) than Hispanic women, whose abortion ratio in turn is higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. Since blacks vote Democratic in far greater proportions than Hispanics, and whites are more Republican than Hispanics or blacks, ethnic disparities in abortion ratios would be sufficient to give the GOP a significant boost--surely enough to account for George W. Bush's razor-thin Florida victory in 2000.

Read this article on the website Wall Street Opinion Journal website (new window will open).

Posted: 11 Jul 05



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