I don’t usually read Ross Douthat’s NY Times column, but his piece on the tragedy of abortion, “The Unborn Paradox,” caught my eye this morning and I was a little taken aback by its mendacity.
In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted, and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond reason.
Some of this shift reflects the growing acceptance of single parenting. But some of it reflects the impact of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, countless lives that might have been welcomed into families like Thernstrom’s — which looked into adoption, and gave it up as hopeless — have been cut short in utero instead.
Note that the only hard statistic Douthat cites is the diminishing percentage of babies born to unwed mothers who are given away at birth (presumably a victory for the forces of family and motherhood), not the gross number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies that are carried to term; he relates known apples to unknown oranges. Which isn’t to say that a connection between Roe v Wade and the difficulties of adoption doesn’t exist, just that he doesn’t establish one.
Why doesn’t he just say what he really means–that it would be a boon for middle class would-be adoptive parents if fewer unwed mothers opted to raise their own babies, or, failing that, if more poor women gave birth to more unwanted babies to make up for the shortfall? That’s a rhetorical question of course. I think the answer is pretty obvious.