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Portugal’s abortion ban

A number of Portuguese reporters have contacted me asking my opinion about the nationwide vote to consider whether women in that country should be allowed to have abortions.

After some thought, I decided not to reply to any of these press inquiries. The reason is that my research in abortion and crime, as discussed in Freakonomics, is virtually irrelevant to any discussion of whether abortion should be legal. It is true that I believe that legalized abortion, by reducing the number of unwanted children, lowers future crime. On the other hand, if you put any value on either a fetus or a woman’s right to choose, any benefits from lower crime get swamped by these other considerations. I could have tried to convey this point to the reporters, but given past interactions with journalists on this topic, that is not the answer they want to hear, and thus, not what makes it into the stories.

Ultimately, legalized abortion is a moral and political issue, not an economic one (even under my incredibly loose definition of what economics encompasses). My opinion simply doesn’t matter.