Economists misread the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision on abortion
Economists tend to believe that they deserve deference on a wide range of public policy issues that involve much more than economic analysis. They often say they are guided by reason and science.
But economists’ wildly inaccurate reaction to Friday’s Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization should lead us to take a closer look at just how sober and rational these academic experts really are.
A group of economists is pushing for planned American Economic Association academic conferences to be moved from Louisiana in 2023 and Texas in 2024 because banning abortion in those states will put their lives at risk.
In a petition these economists are circulating online, they are not primarily asking that the conferences be misplaced as a political symbol or an economic boycott. Instead, they claim, Louisiana and Texas have a “restrictive ban on abortion that will limit pregnant women’s access to necessary medical care in the event of pregnancy complications.”
As a journal editor and leading economist at the University of Chicago declaredprofessional associations “must act to ensure that no pregnant person is forced to go to a place where their health or safety is endangered by anti-abortion legislation”.
Why do they believe that lives would be in danger? One account per a “brave economist” described her miscarriage and infection that required an emergency room visit to remove the deceased fetus through the same procedure that is sometimes used to abort a live fetus.
“And if I had been [American Economic Association conference] in New Orleans for these experiences? she asks herself with concern. “We cannot prevent pregnant women from attending this important professional event, nor ask them to risk their lives to attend.”
Other female economists have started sharing their miscarriage stories online, leading an Ivy League economist to conclude that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case posed a common threat to their health: “Hey #EconTwitter, raise your hand if you’ve ever been pregnant at AEA. This is not uncommon, and MANY people will be barred from attending our profession’s key event if meetings in Los Angeles and Texas continue.
The Association for Education Finance and Policy has already issued a statement indicating that the group is considering moving its planned conference.
The economists’ rhetoric has become so hysterical that a Texas-based economist reassures that planning expertise in one’s field can solve the problem: “Fortunately, economists are comfortable with[ith] compromise and w[ith] design tax/fee structures that ensure costs are borne by those best placed to bear them. She adds that a “good idea” to solve the problem is that “the AEA could purchase a conference-only medical evacuation policy”.
Ideas like this remind us why writer and commentator William F. Buckley once said, “I’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 people in the Boston telephone book than by the 2,000 people in the faculty from Harvard University.”
Unfortunately, all of this hype is based on a failure to read and understand state laws prohibiting abortion. None of them prohibit the treatment of miscarriages, even using the same procedures that could also be used for abortions.
As even NPR’s coverage of the issue acknowledged: “John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, described this… as ‘a terrible misunderstanding of the law.’ …Texas law has declared that the act is not an abortion if it involves the treatment of an ectopic pregnancy – which most often occurs when the pregnancy develops in the fallopian tube – or for” remove an unborn child whose death was caused by a spontaneous abortion.’”
In addition to exempting the treatment of miscarriages from any abortion bans, state laws also provide exemptions when the mother’s life is in danger.
But never mind the facts. Just believe our science bettors as they demonstrate their rationality with complete emotional meltdown.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal