Paradise Regained: Abortions for All and Improved Access to Weed?

Violent crime is down – way down – in Los Angeles. To the extent that enhanced techniques in law enforcement and prison reform are directly responsible for this decline, we should of course be immediately encouraged to hear that violent crime in L.A. is lower now than it was back in 1957.

That was not a typo…yeah, that’s what they’re saying, 1957. That’s an absolutely staggering statistic, but one that Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck assures us is rock-solid, even as he himself strives to fully explain it. According to Timothy Egan of The New York Times – see “L.A. Consequential” – no one can really say for sure what exactly has caused the staggering drop in violent crime, and thus the reasons cited are (in his words) “mostly speculative.” In Egan’s words:

A high-tech mapping strategy, where police move on crime hot spots in something close to real time, was pioneered in New York and mastered here (give praise to William Bratton, who oversaw the departments in both cities, for that effort); the stuffing of prisons with career criminals also gets much of the credit; the role played by legalized abortion, according to the authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in their book “Freakonomics,” in preventing a generation of unwanted children from being born; and the settling down of the drug trade, the source of so much violence during the formative years of narcotic fiefdoms, to such a degree that in many parts of the city there are now more medical marijuana dispensers in Los Angeles than Starbucks outlets (regulated retailers creating an ecosystem of nonviolence).

Don’t you just love the way that last phrase, “regulated retailers creating an ecosystem of nonviolence,” rolls off the tongue? But I digress…

Egan doesn’t explicitly say if this list of possible reasons for the drop in crime are presented in any order – such as “most likely” to “least likely” – but just to recap briefly, his paragraph of possibilities breaks down something like this:

Violent crime is down in L.A. due to:

  1. High-tech crime mapping.
  2. Incarceration of career criminals.
  3. Legalized abortion to get rid of unwanted children.
  4. Ubiquitous marijuana dispensers.

I confess that I have not yet read the book “Freakonomics” so I can’t speak to the expertise of its authors or their conclusions. (Heck, I hadn’t even heard of it prior to reading Egan’s article.) I’m also clearly not an expert on inner-city gang wars or the tightly-related component of illegal drug trafficking, nor have I logged thousands of hours working in a crisis-pregnancy setting, so in no way am I going to try to counter the author’s presuppositions or conclusions. For the sake of argument, then, let’s just assume that the “Freakonomics” authors (and Egan?) are right: Abortion on demand has greatly reduced the population of those destined to become criminals and enhanced access to “medical marijuana” (don’t even get me started…) has had a calming effect on the deadly drug wars.

But please don’t miss the underlying assumption that inner-city women with unwanted pregnancies are probably “doing us all a favor” by terminating the lives of what are rather-sweepingly assumed to be future Death Row inmates. Taking this kind of flawed logic to its logical extreme, women in their social and economic circumstances are (apparently) completely incapable of producing the next Colin Powell or Tony Dungy, constitutionally unable to bring forth human beings who might actually make a significant contribution to bettering all of our lives by composing new symphonies, making breakthroughs in cancer research or promoting effective social justice programs in their communities. As John Piper has previously stated so well, the abortion industry’s tactics in the inner city represent an extinction campaign on a scale we have not seen since the Holocaust…only the methodology differs. Sparkling-clean medical facilities just don’t seem to arouse the same visceral response as gas chambers and ovens.

With that horrific truth in mind, what I found most unsettling about Egan’s analysis is the barely-concealed self-congratulatory tone, the near-giddiness of the announcement that we as a society are effectively wiping out people – millions of people – who might pose a very real threat to us in the future and, at the same time, are becoming more enlightened in the ways that we dispense mind-altering drugs – still illegal – to anyone who wants them. “The crime rate is down…the abortions and dope dispensers seem to be working!” (What?!)

For several months in 1986 and 1987, I briefly chased a dream of working in the film and video industry out in L.A. I moved there with absolutely no preconceived notions that I would become a movie star or anything of that ilk. No, what really “tripped my trigger” as a young man was scene design and construction, a.k.a. “building sets.” While I was living out there on my own, my junky Ford Escort broke down and I had to ride the Wilshire Boulevard bus back and forth to work for a few weeks. Apparently, the bus route I frequented cut through the territory of a pretty rough-looking group of young women, which is a nice way of saying that my daily ride crossed over “girl gang” turf. I was a much-younger, physically-fit man back then, I worked out at least three times every week, yet I had zero illusions as to who would win the fight if any one of these young ladies decided they wanted my lunch money and I foolishly resisted. These women were hard core, the real deal, nothing at all like the pretty actresses who dress up like gangsters in Hollywood movies and think they look tough because the makeup artist paints on a fake tattoo and goes overboard on the eyeliner.

Even though I was not a Christian at the time, my heart nevertheless went out to these “undesirables” even as I lived in very real fear of them. I tried to imagine what their hellish lives looked like at home, and the few comments I picked up from being within earshot of their profanity-laced conversations confirmed that their lives were indeed beyond desperate and completely deprived of all hope…at least as far as they were concerned.

Interestingly, at the time, it never really dawned on me to think that my personal bus ride experience might have been made much safer had their mothers only chosen to abort them in the womb. Neither did I think that if only these poor girls had better access to weed, heroin and crack cocaine their lot – or mine, for that matter – might improve. Even as an unbeliever, it was plain to see that what these girls really needed was hope; hope for a life of meaning, pointers to a manner of living that served something greater than their next speedball or sexual escapade.

Los Angeles is a much safer place to live and work these days, and that certainly seems to be good news. But if what Levitt, Dubner and (now) Egan are saying is true, then law-abiding Angelenos owe their incident-free shopping trips to the mall – along with their graffiti-free real estate – not just to better policing and prison reform, but also to the legions of addicts who have found safer, more efficient ways to get stoned and the millions of mothers who have participated in The Great American Eugenics Project of the past 37 years. It seems safe to assume that the crime-reduction factors cited by Egan are not entirely unique to L.A. and that millions of Americans now enjoy a hassle-free walk from the comfort of their cars into the local Starbucks (or dope dispensary) precisely because “the kind of people who used to harass us on the streets”…aren’t there. Are we really OK with that trade-off?

If you close your eyes, it’s really not all that difficult to imagine the incarnate Jesus walking onto the outskirts of this great American city, kneeling on the ground as He looks out over the thousands of lights that comprise the magnificent vista of downtown L.A. and providing yet another occasion for us to recite John 11:35, the verse we all chose to memorize as kids in Sunday school: “Jesus wept.”

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