The Law of Unintended Consequence

“”The fetus is the property of the entire society,” he proclaimed. “Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity.””

This month marks 40-years since the 1973 Roe vs Wade landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court, legalizing abortion. As some states are now trying us back to pre-1973, with little fanfare, Virginia and Michigan Republican governors recently signed new abortion bills into law. There are issues other than simply obvious one of abortion.

It’s possible to draw a lot of parallels between the former President of Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu, and the Tea Party, also with a number of recent issues and topics that have come up in Texas, for example the teaching of Sex education in schools, abortion rights etc. It would behoove those that espouse the same policies, to note what became of Ceausescu. He was executed after a short show case trial by his own people, long before the Arabic Spring.

[from ceausescu.org] “Ceausescu made mockery of family planning. He forbade sex education. Books on human sexuality and reproduction were classified as “state secrets,” to be used only as medical textbooks. With contraception banned, Romanians had to smuggle in condoms and birth-control pills. Though strictly illegal, abortions remained a widespread birth-control measure of last resort. Nationwide, Western sources estimate, 60 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage.”

Freakanomics authors Dubner and Levitt posit that the data proves that this was partly responsible for the huge rise in social unrest in Romania some 15-20 years later; as recently as 2009, the BBC uncovered the still appalling state of some of Romania’s orphanages, some 20-years after the fall of Ceausescu. This growth, the number of babies and children in orphanages and in need adoption and fostering, should have been an obvious consequence.

Law of unintended consequences

  1. The subsequent rise in crime was an unintended consequence. Ceaucescu expected these “forced birth” babies to grow and become part of his mass people automation workforce, instead, the grew up in a suboptimal environment and many turned to anti-social behavior and crime
  2. The demands of this growth in unwanted babies places a huge additional demand on their society, which Romania at the time never lived up to, or only minimally tried; in the early 1990’s Save the Children started compiling dossiers and records of the children from as many as 600 Romanian orphanges, only to find many had simply vanished without trace. “”We never found out what happened to them. Some could have ended up on the streets, or been trafficked to other places. No one knows,” said Silvia Boeriu, the head of Save the Children in Romania.
  3. You can’t hide the societal effect of such actions, it cost Ceaucescu and his wife their lives. While I’m not suggesting the same will happen in the USA, it’s safe to assume that none of the current politicians will be remembered or looked on positively in years to come if they persist in this direction..
  4. If Dubner and Levitt are indeed right, that Roe vs Wade and the legalization of abortion in the early 1970’s had a direct correlation to the drop in crime in the 1990’s because there were significantly less “unwanted” babies that had matured to the peak age for committing crimes, and especially violent crimes; should this push to either rollback the clock, or make it seemingly impossible to offer abortion services, we better be ready for 2032 and all that will come.

These are all unintended consequences that can be proven by data, except #4, which is supposition, supported by historic data and trends. What is really a logical side of the Dubner/Levitt research, was in fact that the majority of women who were given the choice, later went on to have  “loved” babies in what todays passes as stable homes. Obvious really.

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I’m currently “retired until further notice”.

4 thoughts on “The Law of Unintended Consequence”

  1. I would just add, I’m not suggesting that in modern day America the extremes seen in Romania would be the same, or on the same scale. It’s my experience that many Americans and some of my current and past colleagues have been and are some of the most generous people in the world, opening their homes temporarily to the disadvantaged and unfortunate both from the US and abroad. However, in the current debate about abortion we are generally dealing with those with extreme positions. In that environment it’s important to ensure that as many people as possible understand the consequences of those positions.

    1. Mark, are you just making an observation about the negative consequences of making abortion illegal, or are you attempting to make an argument against making abortion illegal? After all, a pro-lifer might completely agree with you about the negative consequences of making abortion illegal and still remain pro-life on the basis that the consequences of keeping abortion legal has even worse consequences, namely, the deaths of millions of unborn people. At that point, it would come down to whether the unborn were really “people” at all. So it seems to me that the more relevant question in this debate is whether the unborn of people or not. After all, I don’t think you’d advocate killing born children who are undoubtedly people just because they might have bad lives later on or commit crimes later on, or because they’re a burden on society.

      1. Yes, definitely observing that by forcing abortion into the back streets, and making it harder to get, there is a whole related set of problems a society will likely suffer from. The data proves that to be the case at least in the US, by comparing data before and since Roe vs Wade ruling.

        I clearly see the difference between the unborn and born being people. The unborn up until an societally agreed term limit, are not people. As a father of three, I’m prepared to settle for something between 12-18 weeks for “non-medical emergency” terminations. True medical emergency terminations and shouldn’t be lumped into the same discussion. Yes, I agree if there is a medical emergency option it will get abused, but we need to fight the abuse, not the medical emergency termination.

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