While many liberal Democrats fear future Supreme Court appointments could bring an end to legalized abortion, over the long haul it might be in their own best interest, if a Southern Baptist leader is correct.
Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said on National Public Radio that abortion may have been a factor in the recent election–not abortion policy, but abortion practice.
“It is true that married people tend to be people who are socially conservative and tend to be people who vote disproportionately for George Bush and tend not to abort their children but have them,” Land said. “Democrats tend to be disproportionately single and when they are married tend to abort at higher than the national average. That means they don’t reproduce as many children in the next generation.”
Land isn’t the first to come up with the idea. It’s been around for a couple of years and even has a name: the Roe effect, an allusion to the 1973 Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing most abortions in the United States.
While Republican women also have abortions, demographics suggest that Democrats have them at a rate 30 percent higher. That means—presuming that children inherit the political leanings of their parents—Democrats have lost 6 million more potential voters than Republicans in three decades of legalized abortion.
“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?” Larry Eastland wrote in an American Spectator column reprinted in June in the Wall Street Journal.
The idea is controversial. No link has been proven between fertility and abortion rates. Yet statistics do show that religiously minded conservatives are having more children than secular liberals. According to NPR, birth rates were 13 percent higher in the “red” states supporting President Bush than the “blue” states that voted for John Kerry.
Phillip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity (And What to Do About It), said Americans generally want more children but cannot afford them. Since it isn’t economically practical for religious conservatives to have more children, there must be another reason.
Longman said he believes that reason is God and the tradition in the Bible that says “go forth and multiply.”
Ed Larson, a history professor at the University of Georgia, said there is a “survival value” in religious beliefs. “They have a sense of purpose,” he told the alternative Atlanta newspaper Creative Loafing. “They feel their mission in life is to multiply and be fruitful.”
That means in Darwinian terms that evolution is on the side of evangelical Christians. “They’re growing by any measure,” Larson said.
In political terms it translates: “It’s the fertility, stupid,” as an NPR commentator put it.
Not everyone buys the argument. The fertility gap between red and blue states is offset somewhat by immigrant populations in liberal states, but they also are increasingly voting for Republicans.
But Longman said, “It’s time that progressives and liberals woke up to the reality of a falling fertility rate and what that means for the liberal agenda across the board.”
Longman didn’t offer specific advice for liberals on how to close the fertility gap, but as NPR’s Eric Weiner concluded, “If they don’t know how to go about that, well, their problems probably extend well beyond the world of politics.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.