Pro-lifers claim abortion is holding the Swiss economy back

Economic arguments have a particular resonance during periods of sluggish growth, and that logic even seems to extend these days to the hot-button issue of abortion. In Switzerland, a new, very literally named initiative --"Protect life to remedy the loss of billions" - is calling for a referendum to ban abortion in the country for economic reasons. The initiative committe is led by politician Heinz Hürzeler, a member of the country's Social Liberal Movement, and maintains that in Switzerland, where 12 percent of pregnancies end in abortion, the practice represents a huge blow to the economy (comparatively speaking, Switzerland has one of the lowest abortion rates in the world, with only 6.4 abortions for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44). As AFP reports:

It calculates that if the more than 100,000 foetuses aborted in Switzerland over the past decade had been born, grown up and worked for 45 years, they would have contributed nearly 334 billion Swiss francs ($359 billion, 274 billion euros) to the country's GDP.

And, as consumers, the same 100,000 people would over 80 years pump more than 324 billion francs into the country's economy, it says.

Economic arguments abound in favor of abortion (and contraception more generally), and they tend to focus on the burden and welfare demands posed by unsupported children on both the individual and societal levels. Freakonomics has even weighed in on the debate, linking abortion to decreased crime rates in places like Romania, Canada, and Australia.

Perhaps less well known are the economic arguments for banning the practice. Like the Swiss initiative, these tend to rely on what pro-life author Larry Burkett has called "the George Bailey Affect" after the main character in It's a Wonderful Life: How the world would look, if, for each abortion, we substituted a consumer child who would grow up to become a productive member of society.

As for the campaign in Switzerland, the initiative has until August 2014 to garner 100,000 signatures, at which point the abortion ban will be put to a national referendum. Abortion was only decriminalized in Switzerland in 2002, also by national referendum.

EPA/STEFFEN SCHMIDT

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Nobel laureate Mo Yan on not speaking out

In what appears to be his first interview with foreign press since winning the Nobel Prize for literature late last year, Chinese author Mo Yan sat down with with the German magazine Der Spiegel and discussed the "beauty" of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto, a (possibly satirical) poem he wrote about disgraced Chongqing Party boss Bo Xilai, and even the guilt he felt for asking his wife to have an abortion. (h/t Beijing Cream.)

Ever since winning the Nobel, Mo has been criticized for not speaking out. In the excerpt below (the entire interview is fascinating, and worth reading in full), Mo defends his right to keep quiet about a cause he doesn't appear to believe in: 

SPIEGEL: Today you are the deputy president of China's Writers' Association. Can one hold this title in China without being close to the government?

Mo: This is an honorary title about which nobody complained before I was awarded the Nobel. There are people who think the Nobel should only go to people who oppose the government. Is that so? Should the Nobel Prize in literature not be for literature, for something someone wrote?

SPIEGEL: But there are people in this country who are harassed, even arrested for what they write. Do you not feel an obligation to use your award, fame and reputation to speak out on behalf of these colleagues of yours?

Mo: I openly expressed the hope that Liu Xiaobo should regain his freedom as soon as possible. But again, I was immediately criticized and forced to speak out again and again on the same issue.

SPIEGEL: Liu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. And indeed, repeated statements of support would make a greater impression than a single comment.

Mo: I am reminded of the rituals of repetition in the Cultural Revolution. If I decide to speak, then nobody will stop me. If I decide not to speak, then not even a knife at my neck will make me speak.