One of the first posts I ever made was about the issues Libertarians struggle with the most. I talked about conflicts in Libertarian thought over immigration, the death penalty, military spending, and a few other issues that Libertarians may draw various conclusions on. The first issue I discussed was abortion.
I’ve decided to officially come out as pro-choice on abortion policy, and I will use this post to explain my thought process.
Ever since my political transformation from Progressive to Libertarian, I have applied the same line of reasoning to every issue to determine where I stand. This auto-Socratic-method is mainly informed by the principles espoused in the Declaration of Independence, which I believe do a fine job of communicating the core of Libertarian values:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
To sum up, people are born with the Right to be free from coercion, and they may choose to institute governments whose power is limited by the consent of the people who agree to live under them.
This is why I believe in the Right to self-defense, the Right to use drugs and alcohol (as well as the Right to suffer the consequences of those actions), the Right to believe in God, the Right to be Atheist, the Right to own property, the Right to criticize anything, the Right to withhold taxes, the Right to sell one’s labor at any price one pleases, and so on.
When I initially applied my principles to abortion, I had qualms about each conclusion I drew:
Abortion should be legal because women have the Right to Bodily Autonomy.
But what about the developing human’s Right to Life?
Abortion should illegal because a developing human has the Right to Life.
But what about the woman’s Right to Bodily Autonomy?
For a while, I accepted the compromise between pro-life and pro-choice and believed abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape or a threat to the mother’s health:
No person has the right to terminate a Life without reason. No person has the right to force a woman to bring the child of her rapist to term nor to punish her for choosing not to. No person has the right to force a woman to risk her health for the Life of another nor to punish her for choosing not to.
Recently, partially due to Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s hardline stance on being pro-choice, I returned to the drawing board to reassess my position. And I found some inconsistency.
Men are created with the Right to Life. Of that, I have no doubt. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in the previously mentioned excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, this truth is self-evident. My own mind is enough to assure me of this (and a more scientific explanation appears to have been discovered).
But my own mind also assures me that no man has the right to punish any person involved in voluntarily terminating a pregnancy due to rape or one that poses a threat to a mother’s health. Rape, an act of force against the body of a sovereign human being, throws off the neutral balance of individual human Rights, and abortion as a response to this action is a complicated form of self-defense. And when issues are this complicated, governments, which by definition hold a monopoly on force, have no right to exert that force. These decisions must be left to individuals, and individuals must be allowed to make potentially errant decisions when complicated situations arise. And no government has the right to punish an individual for terminating a pregnancy that poses a threat to the mother’s health, and the same conclusion should be drawn as in an occurrence of pregnancy via rape.
And my mind also assures me that no mother can end the Life of an already-born human who was conceived via rape or who poses a threat to a mother or other person’s health. By the latter, I mean, for example, a person infected with a contagious disease, not a person actively and consciously seeking to cause harm.
This means that a developing human is not a born human’s equal regardless of the circumstances. If a born human conceived via rape has the Right to Life, and if a developing human conceived via rape may be aborted, the born human and the developing human are never equal. Equal Rights cannot be applied.
This does not necessarily mean abortion is okay. A case for calling abortion immoral may still remain and may ultimately prove true. But being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion. Being pro-choice means believing that a pregnant woman has the Right to choose whether or not to bring her baby to term without government interference. And that is my position.
On the contrary, “without government interference” is not absolute. It is perfectly reasonable to set policy determining when it is too late for an abortion to be legal. Most European countries ban abortion soon after the end of the second trimester, and this sounds reasonable enough to me. But on issues as complicated as determining the exact moment a developing human inherits Rights, local governments, not national or international governments (nor I), should set the standard. One tribe may have different rationale than the next, and that’s certainly okay.
Removing government interference from the realm of abortion also connotes removing government from supporting it. And this means that federal funding for abortion (and subsidies for corporations that provide abortion [i.e. Planned Parenthood]) is out of the question. If a citizen is forced to contribute his property (i.e. taxation) to a healthcare system or organization, and his principles (religious or other) result in him disapproving of abortion, funneling his property to systems and organizations that provide abortion is a violation of his individual human Rights. No government has the right to force a man to subsidize individuals or organizations he does not agree to support.
To sum up:
- A woman should retain the Right to terminate her pregnancy
- Certain restrictions on abortion are not out of the question, namely those involving the determination of when a developing human inherits Rights
- No one should have to fund an abortion provider if they don’t want to
I’ll conclude by reiterating what I wrote in this post several months ago:
I am open to hearing other people’s reasons for supporting or opposing abortion, and I think conclusions similar to and different from my position have valid rationale behind them. I’ve changed my views several times within the past year alone, so it would silly for me to accuse anyone else of holding a morally reprehensible opinion. And this is why local control over government and the disintegration of institutions of power is so important. As long as our basic and universal human Rights are recognized, it should be up to us, our families, and our neighbors to decide what policies should be in place. Central authorities are incompetent and ineffective when it comes to complicated matters like abortion.