Libertarian Ramblings

Abortion: A libertarian perspective

Posted by gravisman on June 17, 2008

To expand upon¬†my previous post with a practical example, I’d like to cover an oft-discussed topic with a somewhat less common argument.

Many people say that it’s inherently wrong to end an innocent life, so the abortion discussion often revolves around the definition of life and when it begins. Other arguments can mix in ideas of ownership rights, both over the mother’s and the child’s body. In this case, pro-lifers sometimes argue that child rights are shared between mother and father, while pro-choice arguments center on the woman’s exclusive rights to her body and related decisions.

Let us imagine a situation where a pregnant woman does not wish to carry her fetus to term – she wishes to abort the pregnancy, for whatever reason. If this is the case, the only way any other person can prevent this outcome is by imposing their will on the woman by force. In other words, they must claim greater ownership of the woman’s body and life than herself. This, of course, violates the fundamental principle of liberty.¬†

So far, I have not varied too far from the basic pro-choice argument. That is, nobody is more qualified to make the decision for the woman’s body than the woman herself. The typical pro-life argument, however, focuses on the ignored rights of the fetus if the woman chooses to abort. Let us, then, go at that argument more directly and focus on the rights relationship between pregnant mother and child.

The fetus has a very important tie to the mother – it needs the mother to live. Without the mother’s active support, the fetus will die. This dependence relationship means that in order for the fetus to claim a right to life, it also must claim a greater right to the mother’s life and body than the mother herself. To claim the right to life, it must force the mother to carry it through pregnancy to birth (or some agent acting on the behalf of the fetus). This assertion of a positive right cuts down the mother’s liberties (as is always the case with positive rights) and makes a slave out of her. Let me be very clear about this – forcing a mother to carry a child against her will is putting that woman in slavery.

The mother, on the other hand, has a negative right to life without a child inside her, and all to take away this liberty is no more justified than taking away her very life. Imposing will by force on someone’s life is taking a part of their life, and theft of life is murder, whether it’s the whole life or merely a part. Therefore, any attempt to save the life of an unborn child by imposing mob rule on the pregnant mother is simply exchanging one supposed murder for another.

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3 Responses to “Abortion: A libertarian perspective”

  1. John said

    the way you describe the mother – child relationship seems slightly similar to the relationship between a comatose patient on life support and their family/spouse. The patient is dependent upon the family to continue to financially support them through medical bills and the family is enslaved by cultural norms to visit and support them. The only real difference is that statistically the patient has a significantly lower probability of having a fulfilling life after the situation.

    On a mildly related note that I assume I know the answer to, how do you feel about euthanasia?

  2. […] a half ago, I was crushed because I thought it was a deal-breaker since I may be the most hard-core Pro-Choice supporter in the […]

  3. Katie said

    I am so pro-choice it’s ridiculous. However, I have apparently different reasons than you because I feel like a logical consequence to your argument is that it’s ok for women to abandon their babies in trash cans because a newborn baby is still dependent upon parental care for survival. Explain why this is not a logical consequence of your argument.

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