For reasons described in my previous post I could not make up my mind about the subject for most of my life. I would expect myself to come to a position that is not influenced by my personal feelings or history. What I feel and think about it has changed several times. Most of the time I considered myself to be on the pro-choice side, then I espoused the Libertarian position best articulated by Walter Block (de facto pro-choice) but I think that it is possible to present a perfectly valid libertarian argument for the pro-life side as well.
Let’s start the exploration of the subject with a joke:
When does life begin?
For Christians: at conception
For atheists: at birth
For Jews: when he brings his first paycheck home
While the debate in the political arena is about when life begins, the real question is when RIGHTS begin. At what point will that new life have the autonomy to claim his rights? I sympathize with the Jewish approach above.
The focus on the wrong question constantly derails the debate. The pro-lifers keep talking about the eternal soul and other religious concepts that make no sense to the mostly atheist, secular-rights-espousing pro-choicers. They talk science; they look down on what they see as retarded anti-science dummies who cannot even understand what a zygote is; convincing themselves about their own superiority at any encounter with the subject.
But public policy discussions should be neither about spirituality nor science, they should be about rights and responsibilities, about laws and policies.
The Pro-lifers’ position is centered on the sanctity of life.
The pro-choicers’ position is focused on the rights of the individual.
The libertarian position – Evictionism is an interesting one. I find it perfectly logical and consistent with libertarian philosophy. You do not hear much about it, because it is not very nice. It sounds heartless.
The notion of property rights is one of the foundational ideas of libertarians. Our most basic property is our own body. Until birth, a fetus can be seen as a parasite on the mother’s body who should therefore have the right to evict. Strictly on logic, the libertarians got it right. If humans have the right to their bodies, then the woman’s right trumps that of the fetus.
The other side if the libertarian position is pro-life. The moment a woman allows a sperm to enter into her vagina, she enters into an implicit contract with the newly formed life to rent her body for the term of gestation. This would leave rape as the only justification for abortion and even that could be subject to special interpretation indemnifying the fetus from responsibility for its condition. It is after all, the rapist’s responsibility.
The question, the problem, is the ability to ‘subcontract’ the parental responsibilities. It is easy once the child is born but rather difficult while it is inseparable from the mother. In the end, the Libertarian position is a wishy-washy non-position saying that the mother has the right to evict but not to kill. But where does this leave us? How do I vote on the referendum when I am asked about the right to choose or the right to life?
What we have to remember is that rights are social constructs. A right that you cannot claim, does not exist. That is why the notion of “animal rights” is nonsense as well. There is no sense to talk about the rights of the rabbit versus those of the fox.
When people talk about such rights, the rights of the unborn or the rights of animals, they claim stewardship over the supposed holders of such rights and claim the right to exercise those rights on behalf of their claimed charges to themselves.
That is where the pro-lifers fail in my eyes. They claim that the fetus has the right to live but they will not take responsibility for that right. They simply want to control the ‘morality’ of the mother, they simply want to advance their ideology, they want the pregnant mother to do what they consider the right, the moral, the Christian thing to do, give birth to and raise the child.
I could stand with the pro-lifers if they said: that is a human life inside you and I wish to claim it. I am willing to compensate you for the hardship of the pregnancy and I will take the child off your hands once it is born. At that point, the child will be mine and you’ll have no claim to it.
While I think that my position is reasonable, I realize that it is pure fantasy, that it will never happen. Why? Because neither side would budge, because both sides love the war. It makes them feel good and righteous. It is an easy position to take either side.
Can you picture them compromising?
The pro choicers to agree to a framework that would give the adoptive parents absolutely irreversible parental rights to the child over the rights of the birth mother?
The pro-lifers to accept the idea that in extreme cases (such as rape) the mother should still have the final say and that they should persuade every single pregnant woman to do the right thing by offering them the incentives to carry on with the pregnancy?
I cannot. Ideology always trumps reason and common sense. Righteousness is gratifying and using the power of the state to force your morality on the rest of the world is too great a temptation to resist.
Nobody cares about the children or the women.
For a truly comprehensive answer, we also must realize that the issue cannot be separated from a whole slew of others. We would need to look at family laws, laws regulating adoption and surrogate motherhood and so on.
As a Libertarian, I believe that most of those laws should exist on a free market of civil laws and not the way they exist today under the heavy-handed control of the state, but that is a whole new subject already.
- Abortion does end life. We should not have the kind of casual attitude about it that is advocated by the pro-choice movement.
- If there is anyone willing to claim the right of the unborn to life (with the associated responsibilities of raising the child) while also offering reasonable compensation to the mother for enduring the pregnancy, the mother should NOT have the right to terminate it. In other words, turn unwanted pregnancies into surrogate motherhood.
- Such agreement should also stipulate whether the mother should have any rights concerning the child in the future.
- If nobody is willing to claim the life of the unborn, the mother should have the right to abort it.
- All contraception, including the morning after pill should be legal.
- Under no circumstances should the state subsidize murder through paying for abortion.
The position is quite simple.
Would you consider this position a reasonable libertarian compromise?
Could you see the two sides of the debate agree to it?
Can you? Can you make your position to be non-ideological?