There has been an abortion story making its way around particular circles of the media lately. This story involves an abortion doctor by the name of Kermit Gosnell who has allegedly been performing late-term abortions and even infanticide under very dangerous conditions. The doctor purportedly “snipped the babies’ spinal chords after they were born and still breathing.” (Sifferlin) Gosnell and his assistants face imprisonment and are soon due for trial.
This particular case raises a great deal of questions and concerns for people on various sides (yes, there are more than just two sides the issue) of the issue of abortion. Some of the more familiar questions include: When does the fetus become a baby with rights? How far does the mother’s rights extend in relation to the fetus? What if the baby has been birthed already?
These are fair questions that are up for debate; however, there are a few questions that, historically, have lacked fair recognition and have oft been dismissed by the different sides of the issue. Two questions, in particular, are often never raised despite their implications:
1) What about the father’s rights? Shouldn’t he have a say in the abortion/lack thereof?
Here I’m operating on the premise of abortion still being legal. If a fetus can be terminated, why is it that only the mother has the say when it comes to the procedure? If a baby is born then the father is held legally responsible for the child, if he does not care for the child he’ll be forced to pay for child support. Yet the father has no say if the other course of action is to take place or not. Obviously cases like rape complicate the relationship between the mother and the father, in which the mother holds the implicit right (again, assuming abortion is legal) to decide the fate of the child.
On the other hand, in cases where the couple is married, or together, or what-have-you, it is inconsistent both in legal and moral consideration to claim that a father must provide for the mother and their child in whichever way, but that the mother has the sole right to decide whether or not the child is aborted. Indeed, there are arguments against the father having a say, such as when the mother believes the father is not acting in the best interest of the couple or family (but rather only in his own interest), that the man is simply not a capable father, and so on. Many of these arguments do have some merit. However, a hearty debate on the merits of a father’s rights is lacking in the abortion debate.
2) In a truly libertarian society (or any society, for that matter), how is it possible to keep people from getting abortions?
Many libertarians are split on the issue of abortion. Many argue that abortions are the negative right of the mother and therefore mothers are within reason when deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy. The other side to this argues that the child has rights too, and that those rights cannot be usurped. But an underlying issue that is often forgotten is how exactly people would be kept from getting abortions given a situation where there is no centralized state in which law can persuade people from or even physically prevent people from obtaining abortions.
Some libertarians and anarchists that advocate for a particular moral position argue that one could simply utilize peer pressure or market tools such as boycott to influence people’s behaviors. In this case, people who are morally opposed to abortions could simply deprive the person seeking an abortion (or the doctors who perform the procedures) of means that are necessary for carrying out the abortion. This could effectively ‘force the hand’ of the patients and doctors to change their behavior.
However, some of those wishing to terminate a pregnancy will go to great lengths in order to obtain an abortion (as in the case of Gosnell and clinics such as his). For ‘Pro-Life’ people, perhaps the best strategy that can be undertaken is one in which the focus is placed on assisting single parents and building supportive communities that families can turn to in times of need. Building support systems and safety nets (not government ones) may just convince people seeking abortions to rely on those forms of support instead.
Sifferlin, Alexandra. “Abortion Doctor’s Murder Trial Sparks Media Debate” Time. Time, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.