a political faux pas

Byline: | Category: Uncategorized | Posted at: Friday, 30 September 2005

Bill Bennett’s latest gaffe was a politically tone-deaf thing to say, but he’s not the first to say it.  If you want to condemn him, you’ll have to also take on Margaret Sanger. 

This from a 1991 Project 21 press release:

"Legalized Abortion and Crime," a study by University of Chicago economist Steven D. Levitt and John J. Donohue III of the Stanford Law School, says abortions can be credited for a reduction in murders, other violent crimes and property-related offenses by approximately one-half since 1991. Given the legal right to terminate a pregnancy since 1973, it is believed that the reduction in the number of unwanted children to poor households resulted in fewer young adults prone to criminal activity. Citing previous research, according to the August 10 Washington Post, the study mentions that trends in the African-American community fit this pattern. . .

Project 21 members are concerned that the widespread acceptance of the conclusions of studies like "Legalized Abortion and Crime" could be used to resurrect population control plans similar to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s racist "Negro Project" of the 1930s. The "Negro Project" was created to reduce the size of black families so blacks would not overwhelm whites in number. Sanger sought to use birth control policies overall for the "weeding out of the unfit, or preventing the birth of defectives or of those who will become defectives."

The other problem with criticizing Bennett’s blunder, is that it postpones the honest national conversation that we must have.

I’ve said before that we have a serious problem in this country involving the intertwined linkages of poverty, crime, out-of-wedlock births, and, yes, race.  As a society, we haven’t yet found the solution, but we’ll get nowhere if people cry racism anytime the subject is even broached–no matter how clumsy the broach.

UPDATE:  I found a copy of the Levitt & Donohue  study.  In it they state:

Fertility declines for black women are three times greater than for whites (12 percent compared to 4 percent). Given that homicide rates of black youths are roughly nine times higher than those of white youths, racial differences in the fertility effects of abortion are likely to translate into greater homicide reductions.

That’s a clinical way of stating the same thing that Bennett said with his blundering remark.

UPDATE:  There’s more here

"Why don’t we eat babies instead of aborting them? . . ."

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4 Responses to “a political faux pas”

  1. John Hutcheson Says:

    Bob – you are right that we need to have an honest open dialogue on this topic. But, I don’t think you can seriously say that Bennett’s remarks are anything but polarizing.

    I don’t think that you or any other person who would claim not to be a racist(I don’t think you are a racist!) would get up in a public forum and make the statement that Bennett made. The same statement without the racial component, but instead coupled with a class or poverty component would make the same point without the immflammatory patina.

    A broad statistical point can easily turn into a bigoted remark when the statistic is drilled down to an actual person. The very essence of prejudice (pre-judging) is assuming that a fetus is going to turn out a particular way because he/she is a particular race.

    A dialogue IS needed. Bennett’s palaver is not the way to get it started.

    Imagine you are at dinner with some black friends or acquaintances. Would you make that statement to them?

  2. brittney Says:

    Almost assuredly not.

  3. Bob K Says:

    Assuredly not what?

  4. protein wisdom Says:

    Morning in (racist Rethuglican) America: an intentionalist perspective

    On his Morning in America radio show a few days back, Bill Bennett in the context of responding to a caller whod suggested that making abortion illegal would create more workers 20 years hence said:But I do kn…