Pro-Life Libertarianism

On the topic of abortion, the libertarian movement is strongly divided in two camps: those who support abortion and those who oppose abortion. Within the pro-abortion libertarian communities, the unborn child has been given the labels of “parasite” and “trespasser.” Let it be known that libertarians have always spoken their mind. From a rational standpoint, it is impossible for an unborn child to be either a parasite or a trespasser. By definition, a parasite is never the same species as its host. As much as the pro-abortion advocates would love to claim that an unborn child is something alien, an unborn child and its mother are both undeniably human. An unborn child also does not feed off its mother in a manner intended to harm her; after all, child-rearing is the most natural thing a woman can do. An unborn child is not a trespasser, either, as the child is not in the woman’s womb out of his own volition. The unborn baby did not decide to transplant himself into the uterus of his mother with the intent to squat her property rights. There was no conscious choice made by the unborn child to be placed in the mother’s body; however, it is most likely the conscious choice of the woman to engage in sexual relations with the consequence of becoming pregnant. If case law is to be applied (as pro-abortion advocates support when they rattle on about Roe v. Wade), even if the “trespasser” idea was valid, the Ploof vs. Putnam decision states that an individual can seek refuge in someone else’s property if his life is in danger. Clearly, the instance of an unborn child needing the sustenance of a mother to survive is a case about preserving the sanctity of human life.

Definitions aside, the biggest problem with calling an unborn child a “trespasser”—or, worse—a “parasite” is that it dehumanizes another human being. Yes, an unborn child is a genetically distinct human being.  No matter how many times people scream or whine, an unborn child is a unique human being. It is impossible to deny that.

ababydoesnotsimply

The language that is used by pro-abortion advocates is intended to devalue human life. Using demeaning terms like “parasite”, “trespasser”, “just a clump of cells” (which all of humanity really is), etc. are supposed to trivialize human life to make it easier to kill. In every single instance of genocide or slavery, the group being targeted is referred to as subhuman. “It’s okay to kill Jews, they’re not humans like the rest of us.” “It’s okay to enslave blacks, they’re not humans like the rest of us.” Today, it has become politically correct to all but explicitly say, “It’s okay to kill unborn babies, they’re not humans like the rest of us.”  Of course, you will find the individuals who will, in fact, go that far.

The word genocide refers to the deliberate systematic destruction of a group of people. Using that definition, abortion is flagrantly genocide. The group being targeted is the unborn. The mechanism enacting the deliberate, systematic destruction of the unborn is the abortion industry. This particular genocide has led to the deaths of more than 50,000,000 babies since Roe v. Wade in America alone.wedonotwant

Once an individual stops thinking of other individuals in terms of their humanity, it is easier to systematically exterminate them. The government, through tax-payer funded avenues such as Planned Parenthood, using phrases such as “reproductive choice’, have made it easier for people to have no guilt about viciously puncturing the head of an unborn human being, and vacuuming out its brains, in the name of “women’s rights.”

The unborn child has become subhuman in popular culture. Once it is understood that an unborn child is another human being who is entitled to the fundamental right to life, however, the libertarian case for abortion falls apart.

Libertarians believe in the doctrine of self-ownership. Man’s body is his property to do as he pleases. The pro-abortion libertarians extend this idea to abortion, claiming that an unborn child is part of a woman’s body and therefore, the woman can do what she wishes to that property. However, this point seems to miss the fact that an unborn child is also a human being. An unborn child is not anyone’s else’s property. The principle of self-ownership, applied completely, would mean that only the unborn child has unilateral bodily autonomy over himself. The unborn baby, therefore, is not anyone else’s property, and no one else can make the decision to terminate the baby’s existence except himself.  For people who talk about the importance of consent, a baby cannot consent to its own termination; therefore, to allow abortion means to allow for another person to make the decision of life or death for someone else—without his consent. It’s hard to believe that anyone would choose not to be given the right to life, no matter how horrible the hypothetical situations are (and people will come up with the most absurd hypotheticals of a cruel world to try to justify the murder of the unborn.) As Ronald Reagan eloquently put it, “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

yourbody

Libertarians also extol the virtues of the non-aggression principle. According to the non-aggression principle, violence against another human being is morally unjust. Therefore, abortion is a clear violation of the axiom. Abortion is the deliberate killing of another human being, most often out of convenience. No one would argue that murder of an innocent person is justified under the non-aggression principle; therefore, when taking into considering that an unborn child is another human being, it makes no sense for abortion to be accepted by those who espouse non-aggression.

Pro-abortion libertarians often talk about abortion as being related to “the right to choose.” That phrase is a misnomer: the unborn child has no choice. The unborn child must submit to the will of the mother. If a mother chooses to have her child, then the child is afforded the right to life. If a mother chooses to have an abortion, the unborn child will be killed at the hand of its mother. The unborn child is never afforded the ability to choose in this situation. The mother’s choice to murder her child is elevated as more important than the right of her unborn child to make any choices about his own life. As well, the mother’s ability to choose to kill her child is seen as more significant to the father’s property rights over his own child. If pro-abortion libertarians argue that a child is property that can be disposed of at will, then the father, being half of the property owner, should also be able to have an opinion about the termination of a pregnancy. However, time and time again, abortion advocates will state that only the opinion of women matter.

dearrepublicansOn the topic of the female body,with  the recent passage of a Texas abortion bill, pro-abortion libertarians have been crying about a supposed assault on freedom. According to pro-abortion libertarians of the feminist variety, a ban on abortion after 20 weeks is an unprecedented attack on women. What the pro-abortion libertarians forget, however, is that women are increasingly the targets of abortion. The House of Representatives was not even capable of passing a ban on sex-selective abortions in America—which, as you could have guessed—are geared to specifically target baby girls. Certainly, if there is a supposed “war against women”, a war against genocide based on gender would be a lofty aspiration; however, the libertarian feminists feel as if it is more important to protect a woman’s right to “choose” to kill her unborn child than the right of another woman to be able to live. It is more of an attack on women, clearly, to deny them the right to murder their daughters than to stop the murder of female children all together. As well, as much as the feminists would like to argue, abortion is not a procedure that is entirely without consequences (though, libertarians are supposed to support the idea of consequences for their actions). The significant rates of suicide, depression, and general mental illness after an abortion is performed are alarming. Abortion wrecks havoc on a woman’s mental health. If any regulations on abortion threaten women everywhere, then why do most women support the Texas idea of a ban on abortion after twenty weeks?

The subset of scientific libertarians who consider themselves lovers of technological advancement driven by capitalism have a particularly hard case to argue. While supporting abortion, they often forget about scientific advancements in pushing back viability. I, personally, was born substantially premature. The same day I was born, abortion was still a legal option. The only reason why I am alive today is due to an experimental drug that I received (and a lot of prayer). The technology clearly exists to allow for children to thrive without their mothers at times that were not previously thought possible; however, libertarians who advocate for abortion at any and all points of a pregnancy deny that scientific advancement should play a role in determining whether an individual should be given a chance to live.

Constitution-loving libertarians who consider themselves strong proponents of the Fifth Amendment also have to engage in logical leaps when they simultaneously defend abortion. The Fifth Amendment clearly states that no individual can be deprived of life without trial. With abortion, there is no trial. The mother is the prosecution, the judge, and the executioner. The unborn child is deemed guilty of a crime so heinous that his life is taken from him without having ever committed an offense other than wanting to live. Abortion, therefore, is also inherently unconstitutional.

Of course, Roe v. Wade will be pointed to as the basis of legality and Constitutionality of abortion. However, Roe v. Wade is an atrocious case for anyone who respects the rule of law. The Constitution clearly states that only Congress and the respective states can create laws; however, in the Roe v. Wade ruling, the Supreme Court acted as Congress and state legislatures when it created the “right” to an abortion and the trimester framework. The advocates for abortion, when they rely on Roe v. Wade, believe that the Supreme Court can grant someone their rights—which is even more fallacious than the belief that an individual obtains rights from Congress. Libertarians generally despise the notion that the government grants people their rights; however, they have no problem with believing the government can take away an individual’s God-granted natural right to life by creating the artificial “right” to an abortion.

Putting the human element back in to the termination of a human life, it becomes impossible for a logically consistent libertarian to support abortion from any of the commonly quoted perspectives. Perhaps the most egregious offense libertarians support when they support abortion is that abortion is state-sanctioned genocide. The abortion industry in America is run on tax-payer dollars. It is ironic that individuals are paying taxes to the government, which in turn makes sure that other individuals can never pay taxes to the government. Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers receive your money in order to fund their killing of millions of babies every single year. As well, they receive your money to keep propagating the idea that not all human life is of equal value. For egalitarian libertarians, this should certainly strike a chord. The state is also the entity that created the idea that individuals have a “right” to an abortion. For libertarians, it should be clear that you do not have the right to anyone else’s property, especially not anyone else’s life.

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How Can You Be Pro-Life And…?

I recently wrote about my belief that the pro-life movement could benefit greatly from a more pragmatic approach. Even though the article wasn’t a broader pro-life argument, it attracted a lot of common questions that pro-lifers, especially those who don’t fall into the stereotypical religious-based camp, face. How can a libertarian support government regulation of abortion? How can a self-professed feminist support restrictions on “a woman’s body”? Do you care about life after birth? First of all, I reject the assertion that being opposed to abortion puts any kind of requirement on a person to hold any other view. To suggest otherwise is simply an attempt to defeat an opponent by falsely implying hypocrisy – which, I should point out, doesn’t do anything to refute the underlying argument.

That being said, the liberty movement is always going to be at odds over the issue of abortion, and I think that pro-life libertarians need to be able to defend their position. Personally, I don’t care in the slightest if other feminists think that I’m not “feminist enough” for being opposed to abortion, but I do care about women’s issues, and would like young women afraid to identify as feminists to know that you don’t have to fit a certain leftist ideal to be one. And, of course, assertions by the left that “pro-life” is a misnomer if we don’t support universal healthcare or any other leftist cause célèbre are always going to be prevalent and must be addressed.

With all of that in mind, I would like to address the question at hand in relation to the above issues. So, how can you be pro-life and be…

A feminist

Those man-hating feminists! How dare they want to vote! Wait…

On this point, it’s important to put the disclaimer that I’m by no means an expert in feminist thought. At college, I studied political science, not women’s studies, but I’m familiar with a lot of the core of feminist thought as it relates to politics, and to a lesser extent, to society. I believe that historically, women have been disenfranchised by a male-dominated power structure. Women still face a higher risk of being victims of sexual crimes. Rape culture shames and discourages victims from reporting sexual crimes. Women are less likely to run for political office, and more likely to be treated badly by the media if they do run. Women are judged more harshly than men for engaging in similar behaviors. It is within recent memory that women were able to open credit cards without their husband’s approval. Some of our grandparents can remember when women couldn’t vote.

She would like you to know that she’s an autonomous citizen and doesn’t like you oppressing her by feeding her and making her stay in her crib.

However, none of these conclusions suggest or require that support for abortion, which pro-lifers such as myself view as the taking of a human life, be a feminist litmus test. And while pro-life feminists are rare, we do exist. As I discussed in my previous column, I think that it is anti-woman to try to restrict access to contraception or assume that all women have to be, or should be, mothers.

Abortion is a separate issue. Just because the unborn baby is dependent on the life of its mother doesn’t mean that it’s not a life. All children and many adults are dependent on someone else to live. That doesn’t mean that we get to kill them. I was born premature. In many states, I could have been aborted at the time I was born, and in fact, my mom’s doctors suggested aborting me to give the larger twin (my sister) a better chance of living (for the record, we both survived, as you may know if you’ve checked out our contributors page).

Baby Mary Ann after being told the doctors wanted to abort her… er, me.

I do recognize that abortion is complex, and often an emotionally-charged decision. I have a hard time supporting a ban on abortion in the cases of rape, but I would prefer that rape survivors are routinely provided access to emergency contraception. Taking away the perceived need for abortion would certainly eliminate a lot of the complex moral dilemmas involved.

A libertarian

As most of you probably know, I’m a “small-l” libertarian. I don’t claim allegiance to the Libertarian Party, nor do I agree with them on everything. However, as a liberty-minded individual, the question of how I can support government “regulation” of abortion is often brought up. It is true that I do favor less government regulation in nearly all cases.

I have no idea what’s going on in this picture. Please take my libertarian card now.

However, it is disingenuous to suggest that pro-life libertarians are examples of only supporting bans on things we don’t like. I don’t oppose abortion because I don’t like it; I oppose it because I believe it to be the taking of a life. I don’t like prostitution or drugs, but I don’t think people should sit in prison for engaging in those behaviors.

I’m not an anarcho-capitalist. I’m a small-government libertarian conservative, and I’m more likely to support a return to state and local control than an attempt to “get government out” altogether. I absolutely support state legislation against violent crimes that harm individuals, and property crimes that deprive individuals of their property. Even if I don’t like said individuals, I don’t support crimes being done against them. I don’t support legislation of victimless crimes, for the most part, and I don’t support federal legislation of most all crimes. But abortion doesn’t fall under those categories. The rebuttal of “if you don’t support abortion, don’t get one,” really doesn’t apply. Lots of people might think that it’s a husband’s right to punish his wife by striking her, but I certainly don’t want to leave that interpretation up to their choice.

I do recognize, as I’ve said in comments on my previous article, that abortion is something that is always going to be debated. I believe that, at the absolute least, abortion should be restricted past what is, admittedly, a difficult concept of “viability.” I believe life begins when the fetus begins developing. I recognize, however, that proving when life begins is always going to be somewhat a matter for philosophy, not science. Like nearly all issues, I think that complex questions about abortion should be left to the states.

Finally, this takes me to the ubiquitous final question.

How can you be pro-life and not support other “life” issues?

Issues commonly brought up include lack of support for alternatives to abortion (which I covered in my previous article,) and support for war. War is not the same thing, unless you believe that killing foreign combatants is the same thing as murder. I don’t. I think that war is sometimes a necessary evil. It does show a lack of respect for the idea of life if people don’t care if innocent people are killed in war. But that, surely, is a rarity among people who support wars.

The only point I will concede to this argument is that it may be a misnomer to call anti-abortion supporters “pro-life.” However, pro-abortion supporters typically prefer the term “pro-choice,” even if they don’t always support choice in cases of school choice, or personal health choices like drinking large sodas, or the choice to carry weapons. I don’t think that’s necessarily hypocritical of them. It’s understood that “pro-choice” typically refers to abortion, and it’s understood that “pro-life” typically refers to abortion. Let’s not get caught up on trying to trip up our opponents based on their wording.

Of course, the big argument that seems to come up on this point is about healthcare. Is it hypocritical to support legislation restricting abortion and not support government intervention to improve the quality of life for people who have been born?

First of all, there is a fundamental distinction between supporting the government punishing crime and requesting that the government subsidize, well, anything. I don’t support government-funded healthcare, certainly not federal-government funded healthcare, because that’s not the role of the government. Our founding documents talk about the pursuit of happiness, not its guarantee. The government has the ability to provide for the protection of its citizens, in fact, that’s the very idea of government. However, it has neither the responsibility nor the right to feed, clothe, and hold their hands from cradle to grave.

In Defense of Pro-Life Pragmatism

This week, the internet has been abuzz with talk of a Texas state senator’s filibuster. State Senator Wendy Davis stood on the floor of the Texas for over twelve hours and delivered an impassioned defense of the necessity of abortion in the face of a bill that would have banned all abortions past twenty weeks of pregnancy. “#StandwithWendy” began trending on Twitter (copying the much more catchy “Stand with Rand“). Commentators nationwide have praised Sen. Davis for “standing up for women’s rights.”

Senator Davis during her filibuster.

Conservative (and conservative libertarian) women like myself greatly resent being told that our rights are ultimately about whether we want an abortion. We’re often very annoyed with such condescension on the issue of abortion. However, quite frankly, conservatives have done a very poor job of defending their pro-life stance in the face of arguments about women’s rights.

So how can we fix this?

First, for the purpose of this article, I am assuming that the gender gap exists. However, I do not believe it is natural for women to align themselves more often with liberal causes.  I am also assuming that readers are in general agreement with me that abortion is wrong. I’m not going to attempt to change anyone’s mind on the broader issue of abortion because I don’t have the time or the desire to do so. Rather, what I want to accomplish is for conservatives to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see what we’re doing very wrong and how we’re allowing ourselves to be put into a stereotype of not caring about women.

Recognize and point out that calling abortion an issue of “a woman’s body” is intellectually dishonest.

Life is not life only when we want it. Conservatives need to step away from responding with talking points and slogans (“I’m pro-life”) and actually take some time to articulate the reasoning behind them. Some states can charge people with double murder for killing a pregnant woman. Many women experience lasting depression after miscarriages. Not wanting to carry a fetus to term doesn’t make it more or less of a life. As conservatives, we have to challenge the idea that abortion is as simple as someone making decisions that only affect them.

Stop acting like rape is no big deal.

Some conservatives think that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape. Some think there should be an exception. Either way, this is always going to be the rebuttal of the left (“what about rape?”), and we have to realize that this is a very sensitive topic. Unlike in cases where abortion is an issue of convenience, there is no choice involved in this. Pregnancy by rape is something that, by its very nature, is thrust upon a woman against her will. Flippantly dismissing these cases is wrong and offensive to rape survivors. It also doesn’t look great for our “we really don’t hate women” cause. And while we’re on that subject…

Think before you speak!

Let’s summarize some of the things that Republican politicians have said about rape and abortion. Rape victims shouldn’t need abortions because rape kits are abortion tools. Pregnancy rarely comes from “legitimate” rape. Pregnancies resulting from rape are a blessing from God. Going through a rape is “something similar” to a man’s daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Disregarding the fact that these are all blatantly false (some laughably so), just look at how much the left has taken these comments and repeated them ad nauseum. I don’t think that these patently false and rather heartless comments are representative of any mainstream conservative view. But by speaking without thinking about what they’re saying or knowing what they’re talking about, these politicians have made it even easier for the left to tell women “conservatives don’t care about you.”

And while we’re on the subject of knowing what you’re talking about…

Being blatantly anti-science doesn’t help anything.

I strongly believe that conservatism which seeks to impose ideas about how individuals should live their lives is not true conservatism. Conservatives traditionally want smaller government. Liberals may say that they don’t want to run your life, but that promise ends when you want to drink a big soda or homeschool your children. Conservatives may be hypocritical about our small government stance sometimes, but at the very least, it is at the core of our philosophy.

With that in mind, the pro-life movement must separate itself from efforts to ban or discourage birth control, punish premarital sex, or promote motherhood as the ideal for all women. I realize this is controversial for a lot of pro-lifers. But abortion is not wrong because it’s taking away from women’s “natural inclination to be mothers,” it’s not wrong because it’s stopping the “natural process of pregnancy,” and it doesn’t happen because people have sex before marriage. Abortion is wrong because it’s the taking of a life. If we stray from that fundamental argument, we get ourselves caught up in actually telling women what to do with their bodies.

On a related note, if we are ever going to provide alternatives for abortion, we simply can’t argue that birth control also shouldn’t be an option. I am not opposed to birth control. But for the conservatives who are, can we at least agree that birth control would be the lesser evil? The same goes for emergency contraception. While we’re on the subject, emergency contraction doesn’t actually cause abortions. Neither does regular hormonal birth control (not that oral birth control pills are the only form of contraception).

So stop saying these things! We’re fighting a losing, anti-science, anti-reason battle, if we try to convince people not to even use contraceptives. And guess what? Abortions still happen when abortion is illegal. Since Roe v. Wade and subsequent court decisions, abortion has been legal nationwide. Regardless of who we put on the Supreme Court, there is quite a bit of jurisprudence to overthrow in order to change that. If we really want to be pro-life, we can’t just focus on the legal status of abortion (which may not change, soon, or ever!), but also on reducing it overall. As much as we may not like it, that’s going to include not trying to block women’s access to birth control.

Rhetoric matters.

We should be able to accept that having an abortion is a complex, highly emotional decision, and not something that women do because they’re horrible monsters. Stop calling women who feel they need an abortion “baby killers.” Stop saying that rape victims need to accept their “blessing from God.” Yelling at women, telling them they’re murderers, and trying to physically block them from going inside abortion clinics doesn’t help.

One of the few pro-life protest images available that doesn’t include gruesome images of aborted fetuses.

Recently, anti-abortion activists in my hometown were proudly passing around a personal story from a woman seeking an abortion who had been so disturbed by the protesters outside of the abortion clinic that she left… and went to a clinic a couple of counties away. That is not a win! You know what might actually help? Providing women with options so they don’t feel like abortion is their only choice. Screaming, shouting, and condemning is not going to win people over. Nor is it going to do anything to convince women who are drawn to the left that the right doesn’t really hate them.

I do not like being told that it is my right (and the only thing I should care about) to take the life of a child (at the very least, one I chose to conceive). I also don’t like listening to conservative politicians try to argue against abortion by using wrong, unscientific, or sexist arguments, lumped in with dismissal of other women’s health issues like birth control. I’m not calling for a compromise. I’m just calling for using methods that actually work.

Questions About Abortion

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.