Questioning Mr. Libertarian on Abortion
Dave Killion — February 21, 2012
The late, great political philosopher Murray Rothbard has been an integral player in the formation of libertarian thinking. Reading his works has helped clarify many issues for me, but I am not certain he has arrived at the right conclusions concerning abortion. From his monumental work “The Ethics of Liberty” –
” The proper groundwork for analysis of abortion is in every man’s absolute right of self-ownership. This implies immediately that every woman has the absolute right to her own body, that she has absolute dominion over her body and everything within it. This includes the fetus. Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to this situation, but the fetus is there by the mother’s freely-granted consent. But should the mother decide that she does not want the fetus there any longer, then the fetus becomes a parasitic “invader” of her person, and the mother has the perfect right to expel this invader from her domain. Abortion should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body. Any laws restricting or prohibiting abortion are therefore invasions of the rights of mothers.”
Imagine a plane owner freely grants a passenger consent to ride across the ocean in the owner’s plane. Midway through, the owner decides the passenger is no longer wanted and is therefore a parasitic “invader” that the owner has a perfect right to expel. Expulsion will be fatal to the passenger. What is there that makes expulsion ‘okay’ in the abortion example but not in the plane example? Nothing that I can see.
I have not met many people who are so pro-choice that they feel abortion is a mother’s right at any and all points in a pregnancy even up to the moment of delivery. What this suggests to me is that there is some point during the pregnancy when a fetus becomes a human being with the right not to be killed. I have no idea where that line is, and I don’t know how that line should be determined. I doubt libertarianism has an answer for that, either. This goes a long way in explaining why there is no libertarian position on abortion. I don’t like that, but I can derive some comfort from being able to demonstrate that in a libertarian society, abortion would greatly decrease as a result of market forces. That’s not much, but for now it will have to do.
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