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Sebastian's Point

Sebastian's Point is a weekly column written by one of our members regarding timely events or analysis of relevant ideas, which impact the Culture of Life. All regular members are invited to submit a column for publication at Columns should be between 800 to 1300 words and comply with the high standards expected in academic writing, including proper citations of authority or assertions referred to in your column. Please see, Submission Requirements for more details.

Violent Crime and the Violence of Abortion in Illinois

Amy Gehrke

Executive Director

Illinois Right to Life   |  13 October 2022

Twenty years ago, my family lived in Madison, Wisconsin. One of my favorite things to do with my daughters, then in elementary school, was to visit Chicago for a day on the famed Magnificent Mile. We would wander through the Disney Store, pretend we were princesses shopping for jewels at Tiffany, then cap off the day with a visit to the American Girl store and dinner at Water Tower Place or the Rainforest Cafe. Those were magical days.



Since I began working in Chicago two years ago, I’ve visited the “Mag Mile” once – that was enough. What I saw was disheartening and depressing. Empty storefronts, brazen drug deals, and strung-out kids sitting with their backs against mailboxes and streetlamps. This was all around 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon in September. I didn’t feel safe, and for good reason.



In the first seven months of 2022, at least 40 people were shot on the near-north side of Chicago.[i] This is not the “bad” part of the city, this is home to one of the world’s premiere shopping districts. “Smash and grab” robberies have plagued high-end stores on the Magnificent Mile.[ii] Just days following my ill-fated trip to the Mag Mile, a bank teller was stabbed and killed at a nearby Chase Bank in broad daylight.[iii]


This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the violence plaguing Chicago. In light of this, it was shocking, but not surprising, that the Chicago City Council voted to pass the “Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance” by a 49-1 vote without any debate just a few weeks ago on September 21.[iv]  This ordinance is designed to “protect” women coming to Chicago for abortions from states with protective, pro-life laws. It prohibits Chicago police and other city employees from assisting in investigations that restrict so-called “bodily autonomy”.[v]



The ordinance was a preemptive measure by abortion advocates made from a fear that pro-life states would seek to pass laws prohibiting women from traveling to Illinois for abortion. It makes permanent a similar July executive order from Mayor Lori Lightfoot that also protects people coming from other states seeking “gender-affirming” procedures”.[vi]



The “Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City Ordinance” was authored by Alderman Rosanna Rodriguez Sanchez and modeled after the Welcoming Cities Ordinance which made Chicago a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. It also seeks to expand Chicago’s 311 non-emergency lines to provide information for those seeking abortions or transgender services.[vii]


What does Chicago’s alarming uptick in violent crime have to do with its new status as a sanctuary city for abortion?



For over 100 years abortion advocates, including Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, have claimed that abortion lowers the crime rate. This argument reached a zenith in 2001 with the release of a study by John J. Donohue III and Stephen D. Levitt that appeared in Harvard University’s Quarterly Journal of Economics entitled “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime”.



Levitt and Donohue concluded, “Legalized abortion has contributed significantly to recent crime reductions…. Legalized abortion appears to account for as much as 50 percent of the recent drop in crime.”[viii]



Levitt and Donohue reexamined and supposedly reaffirmed their hypothesis in 2019 but, despite the fact many believed this study was settled science, there were problems. Another 2001 study, this one by John R. Lott, Jr. of Yale Law School and John E. Whitley of the University of Adelaide, found that legal abortion increased the murder rate by seven percent.[ix]



It turns out there were several problems with Levitt and Donohue’s conclusions. There existed a great deal of data pointing to the negative effects abortion was having on society.



For example, in Great Britain (and some other countries) the crime rate rose steeply after abortion was legalized just at the time when, according to Levitt and Donahue, it should have been declining. Even more telling, because black women are having abortions at a much higher rate than other women, it would be expected that the crime rate would drop at a greater rate in this population. Quite the contrary. It increased by more than 500 percent between 1984 and 1993.



There is much more evidence that runs contrary to the Levitt/Donohue study. Human Life International has an outstanding video and article that do a deeper dive into these studies.[x] Suffice it to say, abortion advocates are once again cherry-picking questionable data to promote the false narrative that abortion is somehow good for society. What right-to-life advocates have been saying for decades is true: Legal abortion has led to the devaluing of all human life. Skyrocketing crime is one of the many symptoms of this.



In 2020, the last year for which numbers are available, there were 46,243 abortions in the state of Illinois. 13,809 of them – nearly 30 percent – were performed in the city of Chicago.[xi] That same year, Chicago witnessed a 50 percent increase in the murder rate, from 506 killings in 2019 to 774 in 2020.[xii]



It’s into this morass of violent crime that Mayor Lori Lightfoot is inviting an increase in the violence of abortion.



Many will say the increase in Chicago’s violence is due, in large part, to an incompetent mayor, a radical district attorney, and soft-on-crime laws.[xiii] That, of course, has a lot to do with the problem. Combine that with a Chicago City Council that voted to make their home an abortion sanctuary without so much as a word of debate, though, and you have a recipe for disaster.



Tragically, this recipe for disaster is not limited to the city of Chicago.



On January 1, 2023, Illinois’s “Safe-T Act” will go into effect. Like many progressive pieces of legislation, this law has little to do with keeping Illinois citizens safe and much more to do with protecting criminals. Among many other things, this Act eliminates cash bail throughout the state of Illinois. The elimination of cash bail in Chicago five years ago has been cited as a huge factor in the city’s rising crime.[xiv]



Beginning in January of 2023, the Safe-T Act will likely bring to the entire state of Illinois what soft-on-crime policies have brought to the city of Chicago – a sharp increase in what were once unthinkable crimes.[xv] At the same time, it is possible abortion advocates in the Illinois legislature will be promoting a bill to allow for taxpayer-funded abortion clinics throughout the state as well as surgical abortions performed without physicians.



Illinois House Bill 5787 was introduced on August 12 of this year by Representative Mary Flowers of Chicago. Known as the “Reproductive Liberty and Dignity Act” this legislation states that the Illinois Department of Public Health will establish taxpayer-funded “Reproductive Health Clinics” throughout the state that must provide abortion. Furthermore, it removes the restriction that prevents nurse-midwives from performing abortions.[xvi]



Illinois Right to Life polling data shows that majorities of Illinois voters, including majorities who identify as pro-choice, oppose abortions performed by non-physicians. The same polling shows that majorities believe our abortion laws are too extreme.[xvii]



Illinois’s radical policies are being driven by a powerful, vocal minority. Illinois Right to Life will continue working to ensure that the voices of the majority are heard. We invite all who want to end the threat our state currently poses to join us.



[i]“Residents, Alderman Seek Answers Amid Increase in River North Violence”, NBC Chicago, July 21, 2022,

[ii]“Smash and Grab Robbers Hit Another Hight-End Mag Mile Store”, Fox 32 Chicago, February 22, 2022,

[iii]“Local Man Charged with Murder in Stabbing Death of Chase Bank Teller Jessica Vilathong”, NBC Chicago, September 21, 2021,

[iv]“Chicago Officially Makes Itself a Sanctuary City for Abortion”, Fox 32 Chicago, September 21, 2022,

[v]Woelfel, Mariah, “City Council Makes Chicago a Sanctuary City for Abortion”, WBEZ Chicago, September 21, 2022,

[vi]“Mayor Lightfoot Signs Executive Order Prohibiting City Agencies from Participating in Any Investigation or Proceeding Related to Reproductive Healthcare Initiated by an Anti-Abortion State”, Office of the Mayor, Chicago, July 28, 2022

[vii]Spielman, Fran, “City Council Protects Abortion Rights, Declares Chicago ‘Bodily Autonomy Sanctuary City’”, Chicago Sun-Times, September 21, 2022,

[viii]John J. Donohue III and Stephen D. Levitt. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime.” Harvard University’s Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 2001.

[ix] Lott, John R. and Whitley, John E, “Abortion and Crime: Unwanted Children and Out-of-Wedlock Births”, April 30, 2001, SSRN 

[x]Clowes, Brian, Ph.D. “Does Abortion Reduce Crime?” Human Life International, March 21, 2021

[xi]Illinois Department of Public Health,

[xii]Charles, Sam, “After 3 Years of Progress Chicago’s Murder Tally Skyrockets in 2020” Chicago Sun-Times, December 31, 2020,

[xiii]McGinnis, John O. “Chicago’s Toxic Trio” City Journal, January 26, 2022,

[xiv]Lehman, Charles Fain, “Yes, Bail Reform in Chicago Has Increased Crime”, City Journal, February 10, 2021,

[xv]Bessler, Kevin “Democrats Defend the Safe-T Act as Opposition Grows” Effingham Daily News, October 14, 2022,

[xvi]House Bill 5787, Illinois General Assembly

[xvii]Brushfire Survey, August 11, 2022 n=900 Registered Voters in IL HD 66, 68, and 112

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