Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Welcome to the Slaughterhouse!: Libertarians and Abortion!

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." George Washington
Welcome to the Slaughterhouse, America!!

By Nicholas Meyeres 

I never understood how libertarians could NOT be against abortion. 

Libertarians say they promote individual liberty and seek to minimize the role of big government, but they then say that they consider a "right to an abortion" to be part of their general support for individual rights, especially in regard to what they consider to be a woman's right to control her body. But that seems, at best, counter intuitive to me. What about the non-aggression principle? Doesn't that apply to all human beings, including the right to life of fetuses? Thus, they should be opposed to the legality of abortion in my opinion. 

The group Libertarians For Life say: "Non-aggression is an ongoing obligation: it is never optional for anyone, even pregnant women. If the non-aggression obligation did not apply, then earning money versus stealing it and consensual sex versus rape would be morally indifferent behaviors. The obligation not to aggress is pre-political and pre-legal. It does not arise out of contract, agreement, or the law; rather, such devices presuppose this obligation. The obligation would exist even in a state of nature. This is because the obligation comes with our human nature, and we acquire this nature at conception." 

I'll go one step further and say- while libertarian theory is built upon property rights, it also recognizes a natural limit to the exercise of those rights. That limit is what Locke called, “the law of nature,” which is that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” In other words, a woman may have a right to "evict" an unwanted person from their "property", unless that person is evicted via the act of murder. Therefore, to me, abortion is fundamentally against the ideals of the whole libertarian. 

Having said that, America is not a third world country, and a woman does have a right to choose- rather, she chooses to have sex and must live up to the personal responsibility and consequences of that act in every way, shape and form. Once her choice is made and the result is pregnancy, the choice is no longer hers alone. Other than the man that made a personal choice as well, there is an unborn life that needs a say in the matter, one that had no choice in the previous act at all. 

And in the case of rape, which always gets brought up in this type of discussion, (to use legal jargon) "the offending party must pay recompense to the offended." In other words, the rapist must pay a price for the "property damage" that he has been committed- however that may be. Still, this does not negate the rights of the fetus. Whatever inconvenience is perpetrated on the mother is to be compensated by the offender, not the child. In short, the mother does not have the right to terminate the child's life. 

Libertarians (at least in the way I identify with them) I feel are mostly voluntarist, but recognize the need to coordinate in limited ways for the greater good, and to restrict individual rights when the exercise of those rights impedes someone else’s exercise of his rights. These laws are designed to decide whose rights trump whose when they conflict. 

The bottom line for me is this: Clearly, the most vitriolic case of conflicting rights is abortion, unless you assume that the fetus has no rights. And while that’s an assumption that you can choose to make, I look at it this way: If the fetus is a person (or, to put it another way, at the moment that it becomes a person), then obviously its right to live trumps the mother’s right not to have a baby. 

Unfortunately we have a hard time deciding as a people when the fetus truly does become a person. Some people think it’s at the moment of conception. Some people think it’s when it takes its first few breaths outside the womb. Some people think it’s all about “viability”, and when the child could medically survive on its own. But wherever you draw that line, that’s when it changes from a fetus without rights to a person with rights. 

I personally have no idea when that really happens, but the most obvious way to draw the line is at some sort of physical action we can all point to like the first beat of a human heart. Either way, as long as I don’t know for certain, I feel as though we should err on the side of preserving life, and follow the non-aggression principle 100% no matter what. After all, the potential harm to the fetus if we guess too late is far greater than the presumed harm to the mother if we presuppose too early. 

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