Market Value

by Jennifer Florio
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When pro-abortionists argue the need for continuing legal abortion, they often cite the special needs of the poor. Poor women, it is said, have fewer options when confronted with an unplanned pregnancy than those in the middle or upper economic levels, and therefore it is unfair to deprive them of their only alternative -- abortion. The problem with this argument is that poor women could have as many options as women with higher incomes. The reason that they do not is that society in general and the supposedly caring advocates of abortion on demand in particular are unwilling to extend the kind of services to poor women (adoption counseling and temporary financial support, for instance) that other women already have access to. The extension of these types of options are left to the pro-life movement because pro-lifers tend to see all unborn lives as inherently equal. Pro-abortionists, conversely, tend to measure human life in terms of economic valuation.

Although the pro-abortionists who advocate access to abortion for the poor will not state the argument directly, what their doctrine essentially says is that a poor life is economically not as valuable as a middle or upper class life. Poor children, the reasoning goes, are much less likely to become doctors, lawyers, or bankers, professions which contribute economically to society, than they are to become violent criminals, drug addicts, or wards of the state, habits which place an economic drain on society. In purely economic terms, then, a poor child is simply worth less than other children. At a time when the U.S. faces a staggering national debt and a faltering economy, some would argue that we can hardly afford to "grow" a class of people who are likely to place further demands upon our limited economic resources.

Aside from the obvious moral repugnancy of this doctrine, there are practical problems in attempting to measure human worth in economic terms. First, economic measurements of human worth fail to address the intangible values of human beings. In his insightful work "Masters of the Dream: The Strength and Betrayal of Black America", Alan L. Keyes, PhD. contends that social scientists who saw black Americans as failures during the sanctioned economic repression of the post-Reconstruction era through the 1960s did so because they measured blacks in only economic terms. What the social scientists were unable (or unwilling) to measure were intangible values such as church-centered morality, commitment to self-betterment, and determination to obtain education. All of these were strengths of the black community and of individual families which survived in spite of economic repression. The second practical flaw in measuring human value economically is that, although the role of the social sciences is to explain and predict, that is precisely what cannot be done in this case. Human nature is far too complex to allow anyone to predict that a child born in poverty will either remain in poverty, or will become an economic drain on society even if the individual remains poor. It is quite possible for a child born in harsh economic circumstances but infused with those intangible values of which Keyes writes to rise above societal expectations and achieve economic and professional success. This possibility is part and parcel of the American dream -- to achieve greater heights than one's parents, and to raise children who will achieve more than oneself. Furthermore, it is a fallacy to believe that poor people are necessarily a burden on our nation economically. Many poor people do not become criminals, addicts, or permanent welfare recipients. They labor all their lives in an economic status which society scorns, but pass from this earth with a dignity that the social engineers will never quantify or comprehend. Economic measurements, then, simply fail to account for human potential.


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Posted 14 Sep 2000.

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