Glen H. Stassen, the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, recently wrote an article called: Pro-Life? Look at the Fruits. His believes that the number of abortions have risen under the Bush presidency. He concludes: “Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without health care, health insurance, jobs, childcare, and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need a president who will do something about jobs and insurance and support for prospective mothers.” The implication is left that John Kerry would actually be a better pro-life president than George Bush.
My friend Matt Perman wrote a quick, persuasive response:
His first reason for the increase in abortions during Bush’s presidency is a decrease in employment and incomes, and a stagnant minimum wage. “In the past three years, unemployment rates increased half again. Average real incomes decreased, and the minimum wage has not been raised to keep up with inflation for seven years. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed.” He is implying that Bush’s policies are responsible for these things. I would say, instead, the economy began declining 6 months before Bush took office. Then, 9/11 hit. The recession and economic decline was therefore not Bush’s fault.
Instead, Bush’s economic policies kept the recession from being worse than it was. Almost all economists agree that in a recession, you cut taxes to stimulate economic growth. That’s what Bush did. And I’d argue, and Bush would too, that you should also cut taxes during the good times, because lower taxes increase the incentive to work and produce, thereby growing the economy more, recession or not. [Ed. note: See the recent comments by Edward Prescott—who shared the recent Nobel Prize in economics—who said the other day: “"The idea that you can increase taxes and stimulate the economy is pretty damn stupid.”] On a side note, I’d also want to add that minimum wage laws actually hurt the poor. This has been shown time and again. First, it needs to be said that most jobs are not minimum wage. Second, people who start at minimum wage don’t stay at minimum wage. If you are a good worker, you advance. But aside from those two things, minimum wage laws themselves hurt the poor. Here’s why: When there is a minimum that employers must pay, they hire less people (obviously, since the cost per employee is higher). That means unemployment goes up. Which means that there are less people that are able to get jobs, develop their skills, and move up the pay scale to higher paying jobs.
His second reason seems to be that there are fewer marriages occurring. Not sure how this can be pinned on Bush. Bush reduced the marriage penalty in our income taxes. The marriage penalty functioned as a disincentive to marriage, and Bush got rid of it. I would then add that, speaking to the last 50 years as a whole, it is actually liberal welfare programs (the kind of thing I think this author loves) that have kept so many inner-city people from marrying. The reason is that, because of the way welfare benefits were structured, it made more economic sense for an urban woman to keep having children but not marry. So welfare policies have destroyed the urban family.
Third, the author states: “Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative. Rhetoric is hollow, mere tinkling brass, without health care, health insurance, jobs, childcare, and a living wage. Pro-life in deed, not merely in word, means we need a president who will do something about jobs and insurance and support for prospective mothers.” I agree that economic policy and abortion are not separate issues. But I totally disagree that increased government programs are the answer—and that is exactly what this guy is hinting at, obviously. I think that a pro free-market economic policy, which reduces government regulation and burdensome taxation, is actually the most pro-life economic policy you can have. The reason is that small government, low regulation, and low taxes stimulate economic growth. The result is that we have a rising tide that raises all boats. There are more jobs, so more poor can work. The economy is more productive, so the everyone, including the poor, make more money. So I am for Bush’s economic policies not because I don’t care about the poor, but precisely because I do care about the poor. Economic growth is the only long-term solution to poverty. Government expansion and entitlement programs actually make things worse, not better. This guy, then, has it backwards. He is opposing the very things that will solve the problems he cares so much about.
To these excellent points I would only add that John Kerry voted against the partial-birth abortion ban, against the bill that would make harming an unborn fetus a criminal act, and that in December of 2003, the NARL gave John Kerry a 100% rating for his pro-choice voting record. To think that John Kerry would be the better candidate to promote a culture of life in the United States, is frankly, a deeply mistaken fantasy.
UPDATE: The National Right to Life Committee has written a devastating piece on why Stassen's claims are "baseless" and how his numbers "don't add up." There's a short version and a longer version. Interesting quote, too:
Though he identifies himself as “consistently pro-life,” Stassen fails to mention that he was one of the original signatories of “A Call to Concern,” a 1977 document that expressed support for the Roe v. Wade decision and affirmed that “abortion in some instances may be the most loving act possible.”
(Hat tip: The Corner)