Abortion is on the rise in the United States—and has been since George W. Bush was first inaugurated President in January 2001.  Current estimates of the number of abortions performed annually in America hover just above 1.3 million.  What may astonish many of the “moral values” voters who reelected President Bush last November is that, from 1992 to 2000 (coinciding with President Clinton’s eight years in office), abortions actually declined significantly, from 1.528 million to just over 1.1 million—the lowest rate since 1974.

Why has the number of abortions risen under a putatively pro-life president after declining under a pro-abortion one?  Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, a Christian ethicist who is trained in statistical analysis, has examined abortion rates in 16 states that have published statistics for 2001 and 2002.  Dr. Stassen found that “three of the 16 states had more marriages in 2002 than in 2001, and in those states abortion rates decreased.  In the 16 states overall, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions.”  Marriage rates have a strong correlation to economic conditions; as Dr. Stassen points out, “As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises.”

Dr. Stassen concludes that “Economic policy and abortion are not separate issues; they form one moral imperative.”  With the continued loss of manufacturing jobs and the acceleration of outsourcing, the current “economic recovery” is proving rather hollow.  The idea that women would abort their children for economic reasons is repulsive, of course, but it is a reality that pro-lifers need to address.  A sound economic policy may save far more children than a partial-birth abortion ban or even pro-life Supreme Court nominations ever could.

There is little reason to believe that the Bush administration will make much progress on abortion over the next four years, and not simply because it intends to continue the failed economic policies of the past four.  During Bush’s first term, the federal government continued to subsidize Planned Parenthood, and some of the $15 billion that the President requested for AIDS relief in Africa went to organizations that promoted abortion.

President Bush’s appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general came as something of a surprise, since Gonzales had been widely expected to be Bush’s first appointment to the Supreme Court.  As a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Gonzales had voted to gut a Texas parental-notification law.  Some pro-lifers quietly rejoiced that Gonzales’s appointment would keep him off of the Supreme Court, but, as attorney general, he will have a great deal of influence on Bush’s expected three or four Supreme Court picks, and the Wall Street Journal, among others, is now lobbying for Miguel Estrada, a former clerk for Anthony Kennedy and the former assistant solicitor general in the Clinton administration who successfully argued that the RICO statute could be applied to pro-life protesters.  (That ruling has since been overturned.)

And then, of course, there’s the case of Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a longtime foe of pro-lifers whom Bush endorsed in his primary battle against a pro-life opponent, even though the administration knew that Specter was next in line to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Specter was quoted the day after Bush’s reelection as saying: “When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely . . . The president is well aware of what happened, when a bunch of his nominees were sent up, with the filibuster . . . And I would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I am mentioning.”

While evangelical leaders have pressured the administration to block Specter from taking the chairmanship, their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.  Even if pro-lifers put the best spin on President Bush’s claim that he has no litmus test for possible Supreme Court nominees, Arlen Specter will have one, and if he is allowed to take the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we can expect more justices like the four “giants of the Supreme Court” whom Specter has singled out for praise: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and Thurgood Marshall.  How many of those “giants” would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade?