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Thursday, August 12, 1999 Published at 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK


More abortions 'mean less crime'

Abortion is now more easily accessible

An increase in the abortion rate among the young and disadvantaged has been linked to a fall in the crime rate in the USA.

Two leading academics argue that the increase in abortions among the poor and women from minority communities could explain up to half the fall in the crime rate in the country.

Steve Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago, and John Donohue, a professor of law at Stanford University, claim that women whose children would have been most likely to commit crimes as young adults instead chose to have abortions after the practice was legalised across the US in 1973.

Their paper, which has not been submitted for publication in any academic journal, says that states with high abortion rates in the 1970s had bigger drops in crime in the 1990s.

It calculates that each 10% rise in terminations led to a one per cent drop in crime years later.

US Justice Department figures shows that serious violent crimes by 12 to 17-year-olds dropped by 40% between 1993 and 1996.

FBI figures show that the number of youths arrested for murder fell by 39% between 1993 and 1997.

The abortion rate in the US is currently 1.2million a year, down from a peak of 1.4million in 1990.

'Too simplistic'

A spokeswoman for the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) said linking abortion to crime rates was "too simplistic".

She said: "You cannot say that by increasing access to abortion for young women that is going to lead to a reduction in crime.

"There are many causes of crime, including exclusion from school, a disruptive family background, poor housing and pressure from friends and peers who are involved in crime."

The best way to cut crime among the children of teenage mothers was to ensure proper support structures such as crèche facilities to enable young women to return to work or education.

"Being a teenage mother should not be a bar to playing an active role in society," she said.

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