Acton Commentary

Potential Life Lost: America’s Demographic Poverty


A new study focusing on the demographic effects of abortion in the United States brings to light what one scientist calls truly astounding findings. Without downplaying the sanctity of life issue, this study should alarm anyone concerned about our nation’s cultural and economic dynamism.

Dr. James Studnicki, professor of Public Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina, and colleagues Sharon J. MacKinnon and John W. Fisher, studied data from 2008 in the state of North Carolina regarding pregnancy outcomes. Their research, as reported by Breitbart News, studied whether pregnancies concluded in live births or abortions (miscarriages were set aside for the purposes of this study.) They focused on the differences between pregnancies among whites and blacks (the figures for Hispanics were virtually the same as whites, so again, those figures were set aside.)

In 2008, while 69% of white pregnancies resulted in a live birth, only 49% of black pregnancies led to live births. The abortion rate for white women was 12.4%, and the rate for black women was nearly three times higher, at 35.6%. Thus, despite a higher pregnancy rate than whites, black pregnancies are much less likely to result in a live birth, largely because of their dramatically higher abortion rate.

This study isn’t just about the disparity in abortions between blacks and whites, although this in itself is deeply disturbing. It’s also about “years of potential life lost.” This statistical analytics tool measures premature mortality. It asks, “How long would this person have lived were their life not cut short by premature mortality?” or “This person died too soon. What have we lost because of this?”

The straightforward answer: A lot.

The researchers found that, for non-Hispanic (NH) whites, abortions in 2008 contributed 59% of total years of potential life lost, while, for NH blacks, abortions contributed 76% of the same, leading to the conclusion that “induced abortion is the overwhelmingly predominant contributing cause of preventable potential lives lost in the North Carolina population, and NH blacks are disproportionately affected.”

In an email discussion about his study, Studnicki cited Breitbart News’ February review of the New York City Department of Health report that found more black babies were killed by abortion in the city than were born there in 2012.

“As a public health researcher, I was truly astounded by the results in our paper,” Studnicki said.

Jonathan Last, in his book What To Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster, bluntly describes the consequences of America’s declining birth rate, which will, if unchanged, lead to a dwindling population. Last says to expect labor shortages, fewer consumers demanding fewer products, less money for investments (and fewer people making risky investments – say, new businesses), and a burgeoning need for healthcare. (If you doubt this, check out nations like Greece and Japan; they are already there.)

Let’s take a moment to look at the situation in the black community specifically. According to U.S. Census Data, the abortion rate among blacks is up to four times higher than the rest of the population. According to Anthony Bradley, 37 percent of the federal prison population is black (that’s just the federal prison system.) I’m no statistician but even I can tell you that these two facts mean that a majority of blacks in the past 40 years have either been killed or incarcerated. This should alarm all of us.

There is no such thing as economic growth going hand-in-hand with declining human capital. Yet, this issue is so deeply politicized, we ignore it.

Studnicki said Public Health agencies must be informed by sound science, rather than ideology and political correctness, in evaluating priorities and allocating limited resources.

“Nevertheless, as a nation we have allowed induced abortion to be relegated to the ideological ‘shadows’ and thereby hidden from valid and objective science,” he said.

America is not willing to talk about the social and economic devastation brought about by abortion. We totter ahead, languishing in the idea that all is well, all will be well. Abortion, more than religion, politics or sex, is in too many places a taboo topic; yet according to Studnicki’s study, it is having, in just a few decades, a dramatic demographic effect. Samuel Gregg, in his book Becoming Europe, describes the loss of “people power” this way:

Stated crudely, fewer people means a smaller pool of human creativity, risk-takers, and potential entrepreneurs, and as the population ages, fewer people working and creating wealth.

The United States is facing a very difficult economic, educational, and sociopolitical outlook. We will have fewer workers, fewer small businesses and more dying small towns. There will be fewer teachers, fewer students, and more closed schools. We’ll have smaller families and more children not knowing what it means to have siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. A smaller population is not a good thing; it means the loss of many cherished American ideals. Our way of life is at stake. That is not a dramatic over-statement; it is a simple fact.

St. John Paul II, in his Letter to Families, reiterates a truth our nation has seemingly lost: that every human being “brings with him into the world a particular image and likeness of God.” I’m not sure what St. John Paul II knew about statistical analysis but he knew this: America is becoming a nation of poverty – a poverty of population and lost potential.