Born Unwanted: Developmental Effects of Denied Abortion, Editor H. P. David et als, 1988, Avicenum, Czechoslovak Medical Press, Prague, pp. 143

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

Born Unwanted studies the effect on children whose mothers were denied an abortion. The book first gives us a synopsis of five other studies of the effects of denied abortion in various Scandanavian countries. The book, however, deals mostly with a Czech study.

Since applications for abortion in the former Czechoslovakia were not automatically approved, it was possible to study a group of children born to mothers who had been denied abortions for the same fetus on two separate occasions. [I have no knowledge of the present abortion law in the democratic Czech Republic.] The long range study of 120 subjects was begun in 1960. The control group consisted of mothers who unequivocably wanted their child. Matched pairs were based on same sex, birth order, social class, etc. The study was double blind so neither the parents, children nor researchers knew which group were being interviewed.

It was found that the unwanted pregnancy mothers had significantly more complications during pregnancy, but delivery records and early pediatric records show that both groups had equal health status.

The first follow-up was made when the children were age 9. Tests showed that intelligence was about equal, however, the unwanted pregnancy children were not doing as well in school and were described by their mothers as being "naughty, stubborn and bad-tempered." The unwanted pregnancy children were more often rejected as friends by their schoolmates than the control group. They also were considered greater "cowards," more "audacious," more of a "loner" and the more "clowning and showing off" by their classmates than the wanted pregnancy children.

In 1977 another follow-up study was made when the children were 14 years old. At this time it was found that the children born as a result of unwanted pregnancies perceived their mothers as showing significantly less parental interest in them than the children in the control group. The unwanted pregnancy group also complained of a lack of job satisfaction and had more drug and alcohol abuse problems than the control group.

The authors also discuss the possible effects of prenatal influences in the unwanted pregnancies, but wrote, "The existing deviations were slight, but they were nevertheless real and socially distressing." (page 114) The authors believe that that "compensatory mechanisms" might have counteracted ". . . the effects of unfavorable prenatal conditioning."(page 115)

It was planned to have future phases of the study to examine what kinds of parents these unwanted children have become and whether their being unwanted influences their ability to be a good parent. The authors conclude by stating that emphasis should be placed on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies since studies have shown that children develop optimally in an atmosphere where parents want to be parents. Involuntary parenthood does not provide a good social environment for a child and that happy parents make happy children.

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In the Summer of 1999 Steven Levitt, an academic economist (U. of Chicago) and John Donahue III, a law professor (Stanford) published an interesting paper about the subject matter of Born Unwanted. In Legalized Abortion and Crime they argue that legalized abortion might be the reason for the overall crime drop in the U.S. from 1991 to 1997.

It makes a lot of sense to conclude that unwanted children might not be given the love and upbringing in the type of environment they deserve. Unfortunately, the study has been attacked by many as being racist. [In the U. S. up to 40% of all African-American men are between 18 and 25 are in prison, on probation or on parole.] The report's conclusions are therefore called "politically incorrect." In an atmosphere of "correctness" in everything, even pointing out a correlation between two sets of statistics can leave a researcher open to attack. Even if the data points to unwanted pregnancies being a societal evil, we are all expected to keep quiet about that so we won't be called racist.

So it's not just the European studies which show that unwanted children have a higher involvement in crime and were imprisioned at a higher rate than the multi-control group; the problem is in the U.S. also. I dare to say that it is universal.

Perhaps the lessons learned from these studies should prod us into considering that we should only allow pregnancies by those women who have a reasonable chance of providing supportive loving care with all that is implied in order to give their children what is needed to become happy and productive citizens. Otherwise, society will continually be burdened by increasing ranks of psychopaths and sociopaths who will prey on the children brought up in love and respect.

Childbearing permits? Sure. Why not?

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