As issues of life and death become more pronounced in our society, it is time for those who value freedom, liberty, and nonaggression to re-examine their political position on abortion.
The United States is experiencing a resurgence of those who not only condone abortion (and its federal funding) but also seek to extend it to include born infants — now outside the mother’s womb — as subject to death as well. This slippery slope began with abortion being permitted at certain stages of development and has come so far that people are actually debating letting fully developed infants die. What is next? Very likely, a discussion of exterminating infants with mental or physical defects, like the Nazi euthanasia program, which killed the mentally ill and the handicapped. Putting to death “inconvenient,” “undesirable,” or “unproductive” persons is the surest sign of a totalitarian society. In other words, an evil society.
Within the libertarian community, both sides of the issue are taken, with many adopting a stance I took many years ago: Because I opposed the government’s imposing its will on citizens, I thought abortion should neither be encouraged nor discouraged by the government. As with any government financing of medical coverage, I opposed using federal funds. I also did not believe the government should prevent a woman from having an abortion, only that Americans should not be forced to pay for it.
I have always believed life begins at conception, but as a libertarian I did not want the force of law to impose my belief on others. It was not, in my opinion, an issue for federal executive decision. (Roe v. Wade was a judicial decision, not an executive one.)
But I was wrong.
I now believe that people who view human life as beginning at conception, including libertarians, who believe in nonaggression or the noninitiation of violence, must also reject abortion, just as they reject all other acts of violence perpetrated against an innocent person. If I regard fetuses to be human life, which I do, then I believe in their self-defense, and as with any other defenseless person who is being assaulted, I would defend their lives as I would defend my own.
For many years, it seems libertarians preferred a hands-off approach to this controversial issue, linking its prohibition to governmental unjustified force. However, upon deeper reflection, one cannot consistently oppose crimes such as rape or other physical assaults — including those that significantly harm or take the life of a victim — and also accept abortion. The U.S. Constitution declares that no person is to be denied equal protection of the laws and that, of course, includes every person’s right to life. This is commonly interpreted to address all manner of human-rights abuses, including the unjust taking of life.
Minarchists, who accept the legitimacy of limited government, agree that the only laws that should be passed are those prohibiting behaviors that have actual victims. We also concur that laws prohibiting unhealthy or unwise behavior are unjust, as they try to legislate morality, which is not a proper function of government. That an anti-abortion stance is often associated with religious opposition to abortion does not in itself make that stance equivalent to legislating morality. In fact, many just laws limited-government proponents rightly accept are consistent with religious teachings, because many religious perspectives are entirely congruous with nonaggression.
I present the argument that your dedication to the government’s being kept from intruding into the personal lives of citizens does not extend to permitting the unjustified killing by one person of another. Abortion is not a matter of personal choice versus government control; it is a matter of life and death where one person for personal gain chooses to end the life of another. In every other instance in society, we call that murder.
From the time that the egg is fertilized, a new human life has begun. As society has shifted, making infanticide legal has in no way changed the fact that abortion is a violation of the nonaggression principle. Human life is not subject to judgment as to its value socially, but is valued intrinsically with an inviolable right to life.
It is disheartening to see the callous pseudo-intellectual debate some libertarians have engaged in on this topic, with some rationalizing their acceptance of abortion by using such words as “parasite,” “tumor,” or “property.” Such intellectually dishonest verbiage when speaking of the symbiotic nature of a mother’s body and her child’s body completely disregards the younger human life’s rights as a sovereign individual. The legitimate function of government is to protect the rights of the individual person — those rights include the right to one’s life.
Without entering here into a debate over situations such as rape, or when the mother’s life is in serious jeopardy, most abortions are simply sought by women to avoid taking responsibility for their behavior. Thus, they choose taking a human life over inconvenience. Pregnancy is a foreseeable result of deliberate behavior, and most libertarians believe in taking personal responsibility for one’s behavior — in this case taking personal responsibility would be at the very least carrying the child to term, even if thereafter the biological mother ceases to be involved in her child’s life.
Suffice to say that in general abortion would have to be viewed as an initiation of force, fatal force, against a live human being. In that, it becomes obvious that the thoughtful libertarian must conclude that abortion, like all the violent acts libertarians do agree must be prohibited and people protected from, would be a true crime, as it certainly has an actual victim.
The beauty of the Constitutional approach, and of the non-initiation of force or nonaggression approach, is that it does not differentiate between the persons it is applied to. It is intended to provide equal protection to all.
I advise those who believe in nonaggression and favor limited government not to become so wrapped up in being opposed to government intervention that they mistakenly permit clear violations of the protection of human life. Like every other unjustified killing they rightly regard as unlawful and classify as murder, abortion must also be considered murder.
It is clearly a freedom-loving and liberty-respecting position to use the power of government to defend human life … in fact, it is imperative.