- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jailand Adams will never make a New Year’s resolution. On Dec. 5, Jailand’s mother was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly placing her 3-month-old son in a clothes dryer and turning it on. The boy died after receiving third degree burns and suffering blunt force trauma.

Paris Talley met a similar fate last year when, according to forensic experts, she died after experiencing high-heat internal injuries and hyperthermia. After investigating for over a year, authorities charged Paris’s mother with aggravated murder. Her weapon: a microwave oven.

The headlines have become all too familiar and range from the disturbingly banal: “Life for man who killed baby,” to the appallingly callous: “Mom says she didn’t mean to throw baby at boyfriend.”

Of course, it was not supposed to be this way.

The conventional wisdom has always been that legalized abortion leads to fewer unwanted children, and thus to happier, healthier and more stable families. This view went a long way in helping abortion advocates to justify their support of abortion-on-demand. It also helped sooth the consciences of frightened young women and men and cajole a skeptical public.

Unfortunately, as economist John Kenneth Galbraith once wrote, the enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events. And when it comes to the relationship between abortion and child abuse, the march of events has proved a formidable enemy indeed. In fact, since the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized all abortions, child abuse has risen, and precipitously so. Consider these statistics:

m Since 1973, reports of child abuse have increased five-fold.

m Today, nearly 1 million children are abused or neglected each year, 80 percent by their parents.

m The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 1,500 children died from abuse or neglect in 2003, and that the majority of the victims were under the age of four.

While a portion of the increase in child abuse is certainly due to better reporting, experts agree these figures reflect a significant trend toward higher rates of abuse. As Shay Bilchik, president of Child Welfare League of America, told ABC News last year: “It is truly an epidemic. And we’ve seen the tremendous increase over the last 20 years.”

What’s more, studies have found a significant link between abortion and child abuse. Researchers at Bowling State University recently discovered that women who had undergone an abortion are 2.4 times more likely to physically abuse their children. So, is it possible that not only does abortion fail to decrease the incidence of child abuse, but that it in fact increases its prevalence? Any empiricist would reflexively respond with the statistical adage: correlation does not imply causation. And it’s true. Just because child abuse rates surged when abortion became legal doesn’t necessarily mean abortion causes child abuse.

But it’s curious that at a time when contraception is widely and cheaply available, and a third of all pregnancies end in abortion, child abuse continues to rise.

While the direct effect of abortion on child abuse may be unclear, one thing can be said conclusively: Abortion has not been the panacea for child abuse that many of its proponents predicted.

In recent years, Americans seem ambivalent about human life. Polls show a significant majority describes itself as “pro-life,” and there is awe and respect for life-saving medical breakthroughs such as miraculous surgeries in the womb. At the same time, abortions of children older than those operated upon are vigorously defended by those who advocate fetal death as “pro-choice.”

America’s ambivalence toward human life is a product of a line of thought that considers all truth subjective. It’s a belief that pervades America’s institutions — its schools, jurisprudence, politics, etc. — and it has seeped into the popular culture. It’s an outlook that declares, without a hint of irony: “Your reality is as valid as my reality.” It was perhaps most notably expressed by Justice Kennedy in the Supreme Court’s 1992 Casey v. Planned Parenthood abortion decision, which reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. “At the heart of liberty,” Kennedy wrote for the majority, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of life.”

This view is evident in the alarming number of women who have attempted to steal unborn babies from their expectant mothers by cutting the mothers’ stomachs open and extracting the babies. In a recent case, the assailant was unable to have children of her own but was telling her family that she was pregnant. For this woman — yet another victim of the culture of death — one life was invaluable, the other of no value.

When abortion was legalized, its advocates promised a country where, to paraphrase the popular slogan, every child is a wanted child. A generation on and it’s become abundantly clear: Abortion has merely helped create a world in which fewer children are wanted.

Gary Bauer is president of American Values and chairman of Campaign for Working Families.

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