Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a question of percentages

i was reading this morning's new york times online, and got to the section of letters to the editor. the times had recently published an article addressing the issue of abortion, so of course there were pointed and opinionated letters on each side of the issue.

one of them, however, made me so mad i can't see straight:

To the Editor:

For some people, abortion is a nonnegotiable issue. A nation that runs out of people cannot perform the activities of a sophisticated society.

We have a shortage of primary care doctors. There are other skilled-worker shortages. You cannot kill the future population of a nation and then wonder why that nation does not have the people it needs to do the jobs it requires to function.

Our nation needs to face up to the 48 million lives lost through abortion since 1973. I think at least some of that number would have become the skilled people we need now and will need even more as our population ages.

Abortion is at the very center of a host of our troubles.

Elinor Hite
Carrollton, Tex., Dec. 7, 2008

come again? is she actually trying to say that we would not have skilled labour shortages if none of the pregnancies that had been aborted were aborted? let's accept, for the sake of argument, that there were 48 million more americans right now.1 sure, some of those 48 million more people would reach adulthood and take up skilled professions and trades.

however, simple math gives me this funny little idea that they wouldn't take up skilled professions and trades at a rate staggeringly different than the rate at which people who are currently alive would take up skilled professions. so, yes, there would be more people to take care of the people now who don't have enough access to doctors or other skilled workers--but, there would also be millions more people demanding their services. if the proportion of skilled workers in this added population remains anywhere close to the proportion of skilled workers in the current population, there will still be a shortage.

in other words, ending abortion is not going to increase access to health care or other skilled services. simply having more people hanging around without changing the culture and the opportunities that surround them will not only continue current patterns of limited access to skilled professionals, but increase already mounting concerns of overpopulation.

the only things that will increase access to skilled professionals are things that increase the proportion of needed professionals in our population. this includes making sure that children are given a solid foundation of educational basics in primary and secondary school, as well as making sure postsecondary and postgraduate education are financially feasible for the students who choose to attend.

1 of course, i doubt there would be 48 million more people if abortion were not legal. there is dispute over whether the 48 million figure is accurate. furthermore, aside from that, 48 million abortions over 35 years would be highly unlikely to result in a 48 million person increase in the population. some of the pregnancies would have been terminated illegally. some of the pregnancies would have miscarried. some of the pregnancies would have gone to full term, but the people who had been born would have died already. some of the parents would have chosen not to have children that are now the people who currently exist, since they already had their hands full taking care of the child who resulted from the pregnancy that otherwise would have been aborted. in short, i'm using a sort of summary judgment standard here: as the one trying to dismiss her argument, i'm looking at her premises in the light most favourable to her argument that not having aborted those pregnancies would provide relief of any shortage of doctors and skilled workers.


Mad Jurist said...

Sorry, Nicky, but I think your assumptions are a bit off. Actually, a higher proportion of that 48 million would be doctors. Those who would have died already were disproportionately unlikely to become doctors (because of ill health, poverty, and the like), so more of those 48 million would have become doctors if they had lived.

A beer if you can find the flaw :D>

nicolle said...

well, that's the same thing that has happened with the non-aborted population--among the population who was not aborted, you could also say that ones who died already due to ill health, poverty, or the like were disproportionately unlikely to become doctors. looking at all the population since 1973 who was NOT aborted...there is a higher ratio of currently available skilled professionals to currently alive population born in that window, compared to the ratio of currently available skilled professionals to total number of people born in that window.

there's your flaw. :)