Abortions, Libertarians, and Law

Birth to death, the right to life is a big issue for Republicans. A woman’s right to choose brings the Democratic Party to mind. The Libertarian platform, which speaks to harming no other’s life or property, is silent (at this time) on the issue of abortion. It seems to be a topic that polarizes extremists and keeps moderates quiet. A subject which desperately needs the input of real people in real situations has the most reasonable, rational people zip-lipped. I am, for the record, a pro-choice libertarian, and I am disturbed by the fact that a woman’s choice in a private medical matter is such a divisive issue for our country.

It is not new news that South Dakota has enacted a law that makes abortion, in most cases, illegal. What is new news is Nazia of Pakistan.

Nazia, the name by which the two month old is known, died today. She died from a surgical procedure to remove two fetuses from her womb. She was apparently one of triplets in the womb. Rather than forming along with her in the mother’s womb, the sibling fetuses grew inside of her womb. The news reports that the fetuses were partially grown and at about 4 months gestation. This particular procedure would be protected in South Dakota (I assume) as the mother (sister) life was endangered and the fetuses were not “alive”.

With an occurrence rate of 1/500,000, fetus-in-fetu can not be considered common. With my non-existent medical training, I can only rely on my own uneducated review of medical cases. My reading leads me to believe that fetus-in-fetu is not necessarily a dead fetus inside the host. I found a case in which a fetus, inside its teenaged brother host, had eyes, hair and teeth. How would this be presented to SD?

I bring these things up only to question one thing. At what point can we agree that government mandating a woman (or any person) carry a fetus to term is an over-step of authority? At what point can we agree that terminating a life in-utero is acceptable? While fetus-in-fetu could (and should) be considered an extreme condition, what about a fetus in the womb of a mother who happens to have a genetically debilitating condition? What about the fetus in the womb of a mother who doesn’t desire motherhood?

I know women who have had to make hard choices. I know of a woman, an immigrant from Russia, who made a decision to terminate a pregnancy based on the practicality of the timing. She had a husband and daughter in a new land. I know a woman, a carrier of a severe genetic mutation who, after an amnio, had to make the painful choice of a “therapeutic” abortion. She tried so hard to become pregnant and her grief is something that will pierce my soul forever. And, I know me. I was in love with an ex-boyfriend who was awesome- but not the one. We weren’t irresponsible — my family tree has many branches of birth control babies — we are fertile people. I terminated the pregnancy and have lost no sleep over it. We are both with partners better suited to us. He has a child he adores. My husband and I were certain about our desire of babies and fixed permanently the issue of birth control.

Whether a woman carries to term a pregnancy should not be an issue decided by government or majority vote. Public opinion changes every election season. Hourly, if you count the news as accurate. South Dakota may be trying to right the world, but human involvement is needed to measure the cost. Unfortunately, the law leaves none of the wriggle room needed for real life situations. Sometimes we need a person with guts enough to say, “Not another freaking law!”

Where are you already? South Dakota is waiting.

22 Comments
  1. Alas, I don’t see how a Libertarian can be other than pro-choice. Innocent or not, every day until he or she is born the child steals from the mother. That many mothers everywhere are willing to acept this is what keeps the species going; but we, as Libertarians, cannot justify forcing a woman to accept that daily harm against her will.

    The first womn to be seriously inured (or her family if she’s killed) because a doctor refused to sign off on her abortion is going to sue the heck out of everyone inolved for violating her civil rights.

  2. Great post. It really is sad how stratifying the choice issue has become. The Supreme Court nominations/confirmations now are based almost completely on the Life issue. I for one am a pro-choice Libertarian and hope that this stuff will work itself out. Restrictions on third-trimester abortion seem somewhat reasonable, but completely restricting choice is just too much.

  3. We protect children by making decisions for them that they are incapable of making themselves. Some of us want to protect fetuses by making decisions for them which they cannot make for themselves, the decision to live. Until our society can agree on when a child’s life begins there is no sense in debating the abortion issue. We all want to protect children, we just don’t know when a fetus becomes a child.

  4. I fail to see how either ruling is an appropriate place for government. If this is an appropriate issue for government to solve, then it could just as well change that ruling to suit itself. For instance, we have a doctor right now proposing we set Ebola loose to kill 90% of the population in order to control the size and growth of said population. This man obviously wants the State to be the means by which he achieves this. If the State can outlaw abortion then it can just as easily mandate it! Of course, putting this past a dumb conservative (redundancy, I know) is utterly futile because their personal beliefs and preferences – theirs alone, should be the law of the land.

  5. This issue is as simple as the death penalty issue: if you think it’s murder, you’re against it.

    The point at which you think it’s murder varies among the population. Murder has been a crime for a long time, with society pretty squarely in agreement on what it is and that it’s bad, but abortion and the death penalty are variable, in part based on economic and other societal conditions, and medical advances.

    The fact that a fetus is viable at earlier and earlier stages is one of the issues that is changing the debate. It seems obvious that if you can charge someone with murder of a fetus it shouldn’t matter who killed it, whether they are the mother, doctor or robber with a gun. The problem is there is no longer consensus on when the fetus has rights of its own (previously agreed to be the day it is born).

    It seems obvious that in the absence of consensus, the government cannot do a good job on the issue. The best thing is to leave it to the parents and those they trust.

  6. http://www.l4l.org/
    I think they make a good case for pro-life libertarianism.And although I think abortion in most cases is inexcusable, I do not think illegalization is the absolute answer. In the past, abortion was handled person to person, not in the courts.

  7. A fetus is viable at earlier stages because of medical advances only. There hasn’t been, to my knowledge anyway, any advancement in a fetus’s ability to sustain life on its own.

  8. My view on the matter. Why shouldn’t the inverse criteria used in determining end of life be applied to the beginning of life? IMO, it isn’t a human life that should be provided the protection of law until it has a functioning cognitive brain. From what I know, this seems to occur late in the 2nd trimester. So, I have no problem with the status quo in respect to Roe v. Wade and most state laws on this matter.

  9. Thanks for this post. One correction, though:

    “The Libertarian platform, which speaks to harming no other’s life or property, is silent (at this time) on the issue of abortion.”

    Here’s the Platform as of the 2004 Convention, section 20 :

    “Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question. We condemn state-funded and state-mandated abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.”

    This plank has come under concerted attack from those who believe that the government has a right to commandeer women’s wombs for the benefit of fetuses they don’t want (most of them have aimed at getting the platform silent on this point, in the name of “not being controversial” or somesuch). But as far as I know, it’s still there for now.

  10. Rad Geek,
    I thought that I remembered that from before on the matter and believed that my phrasing “at this time” would qualify my statement as correct. Thank you for bringing the past position to light- it is a shame that it is not still a part of the platform.

  11. And to Eponym,
    Roe v. Wade does is the target in SD. I think that the law was passed by those who wish to use legislation to market their own brand of morality, but I see it working into something huge. If this state action nullifies Roe v. Wade, and brings the issue back to state level, who knows where we can go with other issues dear to us? Negate a federal law and bring issues that matter back to the people. A bit OT, but some states have approved of assisted suicide, abortion, same sex marriage, and marijuana. Getting Capitol Hill out of it and the people into it may be a good thing- no matter how ugly the fight.

  12. Eponym: “IMO, it isn’t a human life that should be provided the protection of law until it has a functioning cognitive brain.”

    Whether it’s “a human life” or not, since when did people at any stage of development get the right to live their human lives by commandeering the use of your internal organs against your will?

    The problem with Roe v. Wade is that it’s not pro-choice enough.

  13. Abortion is clearly a major area where the libertarian belief breaks down.

    “Pro-Lifers” believe that life begins at/before the moment of conception. They truly believe that to consider it anything else is precisely condoning murder itself

    “Pro-choicers” believe life begins later.

    Anyone who believes that Pro-lifers will allow you to sidestep the statement with something like what the LP platform as described above.. well… doesn’t understand just how lock-jaw such people can be.

    Doesn’t make the position *wrong* however.

  14. I think the Libertarian Party’s current stance on abortion is probably the best… there are many on both sides, and significantly altering the wording would probably cause an intra-party war. I myself am pro-life; while it wasn’t force, per se, initiated on the baby, clearly SOMETHING was initiated-existence-onto it by a foreign party, a party which, since responsible, must provide for its existence until a certain age. The same way thieves must repay what they stole, since they initiated force and must right their wrong, parents must provide for what they’ve created, or make provisions for another willing party to, as they’ve initiated existence.

    Another argument is based on DNA. Does the government own your DNA? If so, they can assent to its creation or destruction at will, or empower other parties to have power over it. If they do not, in fact, own your DNA, then that means that you do… and your desire to preserve its existence must be presumed. (Continued below…)

  15. These are the arguments that place me on the side that I have taken… but there are others that could be made, and I do feel it to be wrong for one view to be imposed upon all.

    Since there must be a practical settling of the matter that comes as close as possible to pleasing all sides, I do think it very prudent to leave the question of abortion up to the states. Even a state ban isn’t complete; those with enough will can still travel for the procedure, if their desire is great enough; but the pro-lifers in that state can know that they’re not morally assenting to abortion by maintaining the social contract.

    If the LP ever has to take a more definitive stance nationally, I would say that the most practical one we could take would be to support abortion in cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother; but ban it otherwise. Statistics show that most Americans would support such a position… and it would be a pragmatic compromise. But I would prefer not changing our current position.

  16. Because I think abortion is a deeply personal issue best left to those directly involved, I don’t take much comfort in making it a states rights issue. The individual states have no more right to control my uterus for their own ends than the federal government does.

    Nor do I buy the argument that women have a responsibility because of their actions. If an assault takes place in such a manner as to cause the victim to need blood transfusions, we don’t force the assailant donate the blood, even though through his actions, the blood transfusions were necessary. If one person causes another to contract hepititis, we don’t insist the transmitter give up a liver. In no other sphere of medicine do we force one person to directly support another through the provision of blood, tissue, or organs.

  17. Rad Geek:

    IMO, in the present scheme of things, any person with concerns about a fetus “commandeering the use of their internal organs against their will” has ample time to do something about. If the person postpones their decision until after the fetus develops a cognitive brain, there are two (or more) people occupying the same body. IMO, one has no more higher claim than the other.

    I’m perfectly content with the status quo. The laws we have may stem from different motives, but they seem fair enough to me.

  18. “Innocent or not, every day until he or she is born the child steals from the mother.”

    That is an absurd statement. I have heard some arguments that make some logical sense from the pro-abortion side, but that is not one of them. A baby no more steals from the mother than any of my three minor children do. The mother invites the baby into her body (of course excepting rape).