Wednesday, December 21, 2011

On Abortion - A Liberty Perspective

Abortion is one of those issues that keeps coming up when discussing the message of individual liberty and self-ownership, and it is indeed disputed even among Libertarians.  Two libertarian candidates for president of the United States disagree on this issue -  One of which is Dr. Ron Paul, who is pro-life; the other being Gary Johnson, who is pro-choice.

To start, I'll quote something from a fellow Libertarian who has also has strong feelings about abortion, cause you've got to get this out of the way in order to have an intelligent discussion: "I am a male. And I have an opinion on abortion. This does not make me a misogynist, nor does it validate the ridiculous ADHOMINEM attack on pro-life men by pro-choice extremists. Pro-life women use the same arguments as pro-life men. Address those arguments, not genitalia."

The first issue of Libertarianism that comes up is self-ownership, the right to control one's own self.  Now, who has self-ownership?  Obviously the mother does, but the major question in this discussion is does the Fetus have this same right, and if so, does the mother have an obligation to provide for it?

I'm lazy, and since the moral obligation is more interesting to discuss, you can jump over to A Libertarian Vent to see his argument as to why conception is where personhood begins.  I'll begin with that assumption.

Walter Block tries to give a satisfactory answer to this question in this lecture:

Walter's lecture to the conclusion that mothers should be able to kick fetuses out of their bodies as long as they don't kill it. He brings up how there might be a implicitcontract between the mother and fetus to keep it in her body for 9 months, but that since there is no "meeting of the minds", that this implicit contract cannot exist.  But what about children who also cannot protest but still deserve being taken care of by their parents.

Personally, I think that eviction IS putting someone in a situation where they would otherwise die (lifeboat situation), as in a parent kicking their 3 year old out on the street.   And because the parent is having this kid, there is an implied contract that mother shouldn't do any harm to her fetus, even if it is parasitical at this point of development.  What did the fetus do to get put in this situation?  Nothing, so the mother is AT LEAST obligated to put it in a situation where it can survive until it can fend for itself - whether that is adoption, or even potentially in the future have it given up to an artificial uterus.

My other problem is that without conception as a clear status of living/not you don't really have a way to determine whether or not it's moral to abort the fetus.  What, check whether or not it has brain waves before determining to kick it out or not? Ridiculous.

Continuing on the same logic, why can't a parent kick out their kids whenever they want, at whatever age?  Can libertarianism be this cold hearted?  And if there isn't an implied contract between a mother and her fetus, why is there between a mother and her fetus that is now living outside her body, albeit still reliant on parental support?

So that's kinda my position on abortion, and why I agree with presidential candidate Ron Paul, a doctor who's delivered over 4,000 babies:
  "Who are we to decide that we pick and throw one away, and pick up and struggle to save another one? Unless we resolve this and understand that life is precious and we must protect life, we can't protect liberty."

I'm probably going to do a follow up article on this, so stay tuned.  And as always, questions and comments are appreciated.


  1. Thank you Jacob for your well reasoned article on a very controversial topic.

    I generally take a pro-Rothbard/pro-Hoppe/pro-Mises on almost every issue but even I have to say that on abortion I am uncomfortable with Rothbard's position.

    For example, I just got Rothbard's The Ethics of Liberty and I was flipping through it and I was shocked at the language that he used to describe a fetus. The fetus is a "parastic 'invader' of her body" that are "coercive parasites within her body" and so on. It struck me as so harsh and dehumanizing.

    I know that if someday I were to meet a really great girl who I loved and we were to have a child I certainly would not want her to have an abortion. It would break my heart if she did.

  2. If only you had told me that you probably have Asperger's Syndrome I would have understood. When I looked up everything that so frustrated me about all makes sense now.

    -2 way conversations are difficult
    -Talk at people not with them (how I felt with the donut, John Locke, the right to egress)
    -Fixated on a favorite topic (why did you talk to a Canadian about State and National Delegate selection process over and over again with so much detail
    -the absence of the give-and-take of a normal conversation (that is exactly what I felt--talking to you always felt like talking to a textbook)
    --And that explains your genius mind too

    If only you had said to me that you had Asperger's--then I wouldn't have interpreted you as being domineering and rude and anti-social.