According to Glenn Reynolds: "Liberty Dog is a minarchist libertarian with Objectivist tendencies, but I can't even get my dog to crap outside."

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Thoughts on Abortion

I was reading this article, which tangentially discusses abortion. It got me to thinking about my position on this topic.

Within the libertarian community, there is much disagreement on this issue. In my experience, most come down on the "pro-choice" side of the issue, with the main argument for such being that it is an issue of self-ownership. A woman owns her body and should be able to do with it as she pleases including, as many put it, protecting herself from a "parasitic entity" living in her body against her will.

At least I can say that coming from libertarians this idea and belief is actually honestly felt. I take no issue with them making this argument or working to promote it. However, when I hear Democrats and other leftists make the argument I find it laughable. These people hold no actual aversion to controlling the body or mind of another. They advocate such control on a daily basis as they push for increased government control on myriad issues.

Take for example the current situation in North Carolina. Those on the left are arguing against the move to protect pharmacists who refuse to dispense birth control and the "morning-after" pill on a moral basis. The argument they use, however, is basically that a pharmacist is no better than a vending machine and must blindly follow what is written on the script pad. My position on such a proposal is simple. Pharmacists who own their own stores should be free to dispense or not dispense any medicine that they choose for any reason that they choose. If they work for someone else, they should follow the dispensing guideline of their employer who they work for of their own free will.

The above is just a single instance where those on the left show that they have no real concern for controlling someone else's body. As I said there are countless other positions that could be demonstrated to be in direct contradiction to the left's supposed belief in right to self. However, I digress. Back to the issue at hand, my position on abortion.

For me, it is an issue of self-responsibility. People must be held accountable for the actions they take against others (people should be free to do unto themselves as they see fit). Sex has one biological purpose, the creation of new members of the species. If you engage in heterosexual intercourse, it is always a possibility that the woman will become impregnated. As a responsible person, you must accept this a fact and either take what actions you see as necessary to prevent the impregnation or take responsibility when the impregnation occurs.

At this stage, I don't think you would find much difference in my opinion and most other libertarians. Where we part company is in what constitutes "responsibility" after the impregnation. The argument that the fetus is some parasite with no claim to the mother's body is, to me, specious. It is not as if this fetus was some bacteria or leech hanging out freely in nature waiting for you to wander by so that it could make use of the resources of your body against your will. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The fetus does not exist without the direct action of the mother and father.

I therefore argue, that the mother's right to self becomes subservient to the right to self of the fetus, who exists only due to the direct action of the mother. The mother may not want the child, but for me, she and the father made a de facto agreement that the fetus has the right to exist and therefore, right to self, when they willingly engaged in a biological act with no other function than the creation of life. This is not changed by the fact that they chose to use some type of contraception, none of which are 100% effective in the prevention of pregnancy.

Of course, the question arises of when is a fetus to be considered an independent life, separate from that of the mother. When does a fetus have right to self? For me personally, that right exists immediately upon conception. Reasonable people could certainly argue otherwise. After all, there is certainly a stage in the development during which the fetus has no independent consciousness and for all intents is not much different than any other tumor growing in someone's body. The difference for me is that no matter how much the tumor develops it will never become a sentient being, whereas the fetus will.

As you probably noticed, I used the term "direct action" as it relates to the parents, especially the mother. Another situation altogether arises when there was not direct action by both parents, such as rape or forceful incest (which is in itself rape). In these cases, the mother did not willfully enter into the "de facto" agreement of which I wrote earlier and the fetus therefore holds no claim to the mother.

The quandary for me arises when it is time to put abortion in terms of legality. Though I personally believe abortion of the fetus of two people who had consensual sex to be the equivalent of murder, I understand that others have different views of when right to self attaches to the fetus. Therefore, I do not personally take a position on the legality of early term abortion. Late term abortions are appalling and should not be legal.

The amazing thing (at least to those on the left, and even some libertarians) about my position is that it was derived with a complete absence of religious guidance or belief. Contrary to what they would have you believe, not everyone that opposes abortion is a religious fanatic out to institute some sort of Christian sharia.

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Copyright © S Michael Moore 2005