The Roe Effect: A Sociopolitical Hypothesis

Way back when (which is to say, about a year or more ago), Opinion Journal, the online editorial presence of WSJ, hypothesized on the effect of legalized abortion on the political arena. Using statistics from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, and their own political research, they theorized that abortion is killing potential liberal voters. Larry Eastland builds on that hypothesis in The Empty Cradle Will Rock:

More than 40 million legal abortions have been performed and documented in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion legal. The debate remains focused on the legality and morality of abortion. What’s largely ignored is a factual analysis of the political consequences of 40 million abortions. Consider:

• There were 12,274,368 in the Voting Age Population of 205,815,000 missing from the 2000 presidential election, because of abortions from 1973-82.

• In this year’s election, there will be 18,336,576 in the Voting Age Population missing because of abortions between 1972 and 1986.

• In the 2008 election, 24,408,960 in the Voting Age Population will be missing because of abortions between 1973-90.

These numbers will not change. They are based on individual choices made–aggregated nationally–as long as 30 years ago. Look inside these numbers at where the political impact is felt most. Do Democrats realize that millions of Missing Voters–due to the abortion policies they advocate–gave George W. Bush the margin of victory in 2000?


Eastland runs through the numbers (nine tables’ worth). Some of his conclusions:

There were 105,405,100 votes cast for president in the 2000 general election, representing 51.2% of the Voting Age Population. The Missing Voters [i. e., babies aborted who would have been of eligible voting age] would have been 6,033,097 based on that portion of the 51.2% represented by (at their lower voting level) 18-24 year olds. This means that Missing Voters would have been 4.48% of all actual voters in 2000.

He goes on to run through some extrapolations from abortion data, surveys of Republican and Democratic views on abortion, and how that applies to the voters of the 2000 election. His conclusion:

In the actual popular vote for president in the 2000 general election in Florida, George W. Bush was declared the winner by 537 votes. But if the 260,962 Missing Voters of Florida had been present to vote, Al Gore would have won by 45,366 votes. Missing Voters–through decisions made in the 1970s and early 1980s, encouraged and emboldened by the feminist movement at the height of its power–altered the outcome of the U.S. presidency a generation later, in a way proponents of legal abortion could not have imagined.

Eastland asserts that this affect will continue:

Examining these results through a partisan political lens, the Democrats have given the Republicans a decided advantage in electoral politics, one that grows with each election. Moreover, it is an advantage that they can never regain. Even if abortion were declared illegal today, and every single person complied with the decision, the advantage would continue to grow until the 2020 election, and would stay at that level throughout the voting lifetime of most Americans living today.

He concludes:

Abortion has caused missing Democrats–and missing liberals. For advocates so fundamentally committed to changing the face of conservative America, liberals have been remarkably blind to the fact that every day the abortions they advocate dramatically decrease their power to do so. Imagine the number of followers that their abortion policies eliminate who, over the next several decades, would have emerged as the new liberal thinkers, voters, adherents, fund-raisers and workers for their cause.

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