Jan 18 2008

Laws Don’t Save Lives, People Do

Published by at 8:29 am under All General Discussions

Some people think laws force people to act according to the laws. Sadly this is backwards. Laws in a democracy define the boundaries of commonly agreed to (and therefore followed) boundaries of action. A law never stopped a murderer – it only punished them for their act. Not one murderer, by definition, was stopped by a law. And neither were all you speeders out there (me included)!.

Societies have agreed to boundaries of behavior. And those boundaries change over time as we learn more about ourselves and our collective actions. We use to own slaves – we free them now. We used to restrict women’s right to vote – we free them now. In some cases we are still in transition, and transitions are never quick enough for those who had to live through them. But they do happen. And we may be seeing one now on the abortion front:

The number of abortions being performed in the United States has dropped to 1.2 million a year – the lowest level since 1976, according to a new report.

The drop was driven by a decline in the overall rate at which women of childbearing age are getting abortions, which fell about 9 percent between 2000 and 2005, according to a nationwide survey.

The total number of abortions among women ages 15 to 44 declined from 1.3 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2005, an 8 percent drop that continued a trend that began in 1990, when the number of abortions peaked at more than 1.6 million, the survey found. The last time the number of abortions was that low was 1976, when slightly fewer than 1.2 million were performed.

This confirms some anecdotal evidence I get from my older kids that the younger men and women of today are just more responsible and unwilling to destroy a life for convenience. This is good news and a sign that society might agree soon that destroying your child for convenience is a bad thing (excluding serious medical issues which is a nightmare we can all have sympathy for).

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Laws Don’t Save Lives, People Do”

  1. CatoRenasci says:

    You make an excellent point which is too often neglected. In fact, the point that the law reflects the negative boundaries of behavior, rather than having been intended to prescribe positive imperatives to act in certain ways, is a fundamental difference between the common law tradition, from which our system derives and has sadly much deviated, and the Roman law tradition on the Continent.

    The Common law is organic and develops over time in response to actual controversies, and the crimes at Common Law were primarily those against persons or property, plus treason. The punishment as criminal of thought crimes, ecclesiastical crimes, and ‘blue law’ sorts of crimes, at Common Law, really dates from Reformation England when the Church courts that had previously dealt with them (with relatively limited ability to do more than admonish and excommunicate, though some heretics were burned).

    The Common Law tradition, further, sees the King as under the law — though he may promulgate law and have great power of action, he cannot violate law in effect).

    The Roman Law tradition, on the other hand, sees the King (i.e., the sovereign power) as above the law, which means what ever the King does is legal, however arbitrary. This notion continues in modern form in Rousseau’s notion of the General Will and the Marxist notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    One of the changes in the US, beginning really with the Progressives in the US in the early 20th century, and continuing through modern left liberalism to the present, is an increasing use of ‘positive law’, that is law designed to change people’s behaviors in ways that are generally for a policy goal, such as redistribution of income.

    One must be careful, however, in distinguishing law which better captures the true costs of actions that could not previously be ascertained – one thinks here of the subset of environmental law which makes polluters responsible for the costs created by their pollution – and the nanny state, such as Hillary Care.

  2. conman says:


    Once again you are guilty of cherry-picking facts to support your theories. You quote from the Boston Globe article only the statistics of the decline in number of abortions and then summarily conclude that the reason for the decline must be that younger men and women are less willing to kill babies for convenience. What you conveniently failed to include was the portion of the article that actually addressed the reasons for the decline. Here is what you left out:

    “The report did not identify reasons for the drop in abortions, but the researchers said it could be a combination of factors. It could be more women using contraception and not having as many unintended pregnancies. It could be more restrictions on abortions, making it more difficult for women to obtain abortion services. It could be a combination of these and other dynamics,” said Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health research organization publishing the report in the March issue of the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

    * * *

    Suzanne Poppema of Physicians for Reproductive Health and Choice speculated that wider availability of the so-called morning-after pill also might be playing a role.

    “I would like to say that it’s at least partially due to increased availability of emergency contraception, which is a really good addition to reproductive healthcare in this country,” Poppema said. The emergency contraceptive, a high dose of standard birth control pills, can prevent pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.”

    No surprise – the reasons for the decline provided in the same article you selectively quoted do not support your theory. Since your theory appears to be based almost exclusively on your conversations with your kids, I think I’ll have to go with the explanations provided by the research experts cited in the article over your kids opinion.

    So, now that we are on the topic, I assume you support contraception and educating our kids about it since it appears to have contributed to the reduction in abortions?