August 28th 2004

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The Olympics return to Athens ...

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Mark Latham caves in on free trade deal

MARRIAGE ACT: Major triumph for marriage in Australia

FAMILY: Hard-won victory on Marriage Amendment Bill

YOUTH: X and Y generations suffer intergenerational theft

POPULATION PART ONE: What abortion is costing Australia

POPULATION PART TWO: The economic cause of falling fertility

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Growing old disgracefully

FAMILY LAW: Dads bear the burden of proof

THE MEDIA: Mark Latham and Big Brother

CINEMA: FILM REVIEW - Gillo Pontecorvo's 'The Battle of Algiers'

Lies, damned lies and coathangers (letter)

John F. Kennedy's reputation (letter)

Sugar industry sold short (letter)

BOOKS: KOKODA, by Peter FitzSimons

BOOKS: HIS DARK MATERIALS: Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman

2004 Fighting Fund launched

Books promotion page

What abortion is costing Australia

by Richard Grant

News Weekly, August 28, 2004
The abortion epidemic has contributed to the progressive decline in Australia's birth-rate, according to Melbourne economist Richard Grant. This decline is already having serious ramifications for the future of our nation because it is now the dominant factor in the rapid ageing of our population.

The grave consequences of falling fertility have, in part, escaped public attention because of the great concern during the past decades about "overpopulation". The reason for the extraordinary world population growth during these years has been little understood: clean water and disease eradication greatly extended life spans and dramatically increased the number of generations alive at one time - a phenomenon that has about run its course.

As American economist Nicholas Eberstadt has pointed out, the population of undeveloped countries mushroomed "not because they were breeding like rabbits but because they stopped dying like flies".

Life expectancy

Global life expectancy at the start of the century, at birth, was about 30 years; by the early 1990s it had risen to 64 - more than doubling in only nine decades.

Falling fertility has now taken over from higher life-expectancy as the main contributor towards population ageing. Put simply, there are just not enough births to maintain appropriate ratios between the young and the elderly. The costs of social security and health benefits for the aged will eventually become staggering burdens for the smaller proportions of young workers in many countries.

The ramifications for Australia's future workers and taxpayers are immense. Before the 2004 budget, the Federal Treasurer, Mr Peter Costello, pointed out that the number of people 65 years and over will double. He went on to say that "we've got five people in the workforce for every person in retirement now. It's going to drop to a ratio of 2.5 to one by 2042." Significantly, this ratio was around 20-to-one in the 1950s.

An analysis of Australia's fertility rate trends since World War II demonstrates the impact of abortion on our fertility rate since 1971. The postwar fertility rate peaked at 3.55 children per woman in 1961 before falling sharply during the 1960s as social and economic changes led to a wider acceptance and use of oral contraceptives.

By 1971, the fertility rate had dropped to 2.95, by which time another factor was beginning to make a big impact - abortion. Australia's abortion laws were progressively liberalised, or weakened by court rulings, from 1969 and have resulted in a corresponding decline in the number of live births, on which our fertility rate is calculated.

From 1971, the fertility rate dropped steadily, falling to 1.73 in 2001, with abortion being clearly the major determining factor in this fall. It is conservatively estimated that, on average, around 90,000 abortions have been performed annually in Australia since the early '70s. This means that nearly three million abortions have occurred in Australia since that time, each one representing a loss to our fertility level.

On the other hand, if Australia's fertility rate of 2.95 in 1971 had been maintained till the present day (and assuming no change to migration or life expectancy), Australia's present population would now be approximately four million higher than it is. Abortion, therefore, accounts for approximately three-quarters of the loss to our population caused by the decline in our nation's fertility since 1971 and is the major contributor to the escalating ageing crisis facing this country.

Looked at in another way, given that there were about 250,000 live births and 100,000 abortion deaths in 2002, Australia's fertility rate that year would have been 40 per cent higher had the children killed by abortion been born. Significantly, Australia's fertility rate in 2002 would have been about 2.45, or well above the replacement level of 2.1, had no abortion deaths occurred that year.

Historically, Australia's fertility rate of 1.75 (in 2002) is near an all-time low and the longer term trend is downward.

Maintenance of stable population numbers requires a replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Worldwide, 83 countries and territories are now below this replacement rate and if "medium variant" fertility assumptions prove true, 56 nations will have negative population growth by 2050. The United Nations predicts that the European population will fall from 725 million to 565 million by the year 2050 - a decline of 22 per cent.

As indicated earlier, ABS projections based on a fertility rate of 1.4 babies per woman indicate that Australia's population could begin to decline by 2040.

In 2002, Federal Treasurer Costello released an intergenerational report which warned that the budget would face a huge crisis in future years if the ageing problem was left unchecked.

Even now there are not enough nursing homes for our ageing population. There are not enough beds, not enough private and public institutions.

But the problems we face now are only the tip of the iceberg.

The Hogan Report on the care of the elderly, released by the Federal Government on Budget night, warns that the total cost of accommodating older Australians, who can no longer look after themselves without some level of assistance, will rise from $7.8 billion last year to $106 billion in 40 years time.


Research undertaken for Carers Australia by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) forecasts that the number of older people in Australia likely to need assistance because of a severe or profound disability will rise from 539,000 in 2001 to 1,390,000 in 2031 - an increase of 160 per cent.

Moreover, the average age of carers is also projected to increase significantly.

If these projections - which are based on Australia's current circumstances and policies - become reality, then several hundred thousand older persons, needing care, will not have informal care as it exists today.

The ageing crisis created by plummeting fertility is too severe to be rectified by immigration alone, nor can the massive future cost of caring for the aged be met adequately by measures such as encouraging greater workforce participation, implementing higher taxes to pay for more aged accommodation or deferring retirement age to over 65.

Despite Australia's large-scale postwar immigration, our nation's demographic structure is moving inexorably along the ageing track.

When trumpeting the merits of the government's newly introduced baby bonus, the Federal Treasurer, Mr Peter Costello, touched on the need to increase our nation's fertility rate. He said that couples should have "one child for the husband, one child for the wife and one child for the nation".

Mr Costello failed to mention, however, the one factor that is most responsible for undermining our nation's fertility - abortion.

The tightening and enforcement of our nation's abortion laws, combined with the cessation of medical benefits for abortion, would produce a significant and sustained increase in our fertility. In addition, the Government needs urgently to introduce deep-seated reforms to make its tax and welfare systems much more family-friendly.

Apart from its effects on our fertility rate, Australia's birth dearth is also harming our nation's economic development in other significant ways.

The loss to our population of the three million unborn Australians killed by abortion over the last 35 years represents a massive loss to our nation's present productive capacity and hence to the level of our Gross Domestic Product. Further, the additional domestic demand for consumables, which these aborted Australians would have generated, would have been of enormous benefit to our local industries, many of which have struggled to survive and have even gone under.

Professor Max Corden, a member of the Productivity Commission, recently argued that a larger economy, stimulated by higher population growth, allows for utilisation of economics of scale in goods and services not traded internationally. For this reason, he maintains that Australia's interests would be best served if there was a doubling of our population over the next few decades.

Every working day in Australia approximately three hundred unborn Australians are aborted. That's the size of an average primary school.

Consider then the enormous impetus given to the building industry and its suppliers of the hundreds of additional schools needing to be built nationally following a sustained surge in fertility resulting from a ban on abortion. Consider also, the huge increase in demand for teachers generated by the hundreds of thousands of additional children enrolled at our schools - not to mention the additional demand for school books, uniforms and a myriad of other goods and services.

Social costs

Finally, there is evidence to suggest that abortion is linked to an increased incidence of social and health disorders, such as marriage breakdown, child abuse, mental and physical illness, drug abuse, breast cancer and suicide. The cost to our nation because of this would be considerable.

The facts speak for themselves. Abortion is not just bad for babies - it is also bad for our nation: economically, socially and spiritually. The stark reality is that the act of killing an unborn Australian child is now one of our nation's most commonly performed medical procedures. Our non-respect of natural laws will cost a high price and the longer we wait the higher the bill will be for us, our children and our grandchildren.

When will we ever learn?

  • The full-length version of this paper, complete with footnotes and references, will be published in the Journal of the Australian Family Association -

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