The heated abortion debate has up to this time been focused on legal measures. A new study commissioned by Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good concludes that government social spending and economic conditions do more to reduce abortions than legal strategies such as parental consent laws.
Joseph Wright (Penn State University) and Michael Bailey's (Georgetown University) examined the dramatic drop in abortions in the 1990s. The results are significant. States that spend more generously on nutritional supplement programs, for example, could see up to 37 percent lower abortion rates. Other factors such as cutting welfare more slowly and higher male employment rates had a 20 to 29 percent reduction rate.
The negative approaches don't seem to work. Welfare caps on children born while on welfare and laws requiring parental consent for minors have only negligible impact. The study concludes that "pro-family policies reduce abortions."
Both Republicans and Democrats should take note. The authors estimate that increased welfare payments and less Medicaid funding for abortions could lower the current abortion rate by 37 percent.
Mary Nelson is president emeritus of Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation on the west side of Chicago. She is also a board member of Sojourners.