Libertarians and Abortion: You Can Be a Libertarian and Pro-Life
August 28, 2009
Libertarians are commonly described as economic conservatives and social liberals. They typically promote a deregulated, laissez–faire economy, along with a rather extreme (but not necessarily wrong-headed) view of social freedom that permits such things as prostitution and the most harmful forms of drug use. Thus, many (and probably most) libertarians, as social liberals, favor the Roe v. Wade regime of “reproductive freedom.”
However, libertarians seem to adopt J.S. Mills’ idea of the “harm principle” (also termed “aggression”) as the sole justification for criminal laws, rather than reference to the common good or a moral grounding for criminal law. (It is unclear to me whether libertarians generally believe that God-given natural rights obligate the government to limit criminal law in this way, or if libertarians simply prefer this version of social freedom.) This is why abusing drugs like heroin is legal in a libertarian world: it (arguably) does not harm anyone else, and the law is not to keep you from harming yourself. This line of thinking, however, would seem to leave ample room for a libertarian to be pro-life, because abortion does harm another human being in the most vicious way imagineable. Vox Day, a staunch libertarian, provides us with the pro-life libertarian argument:
The reason unborn children have human rights is that they are human. They exist, they are human, ergo they have the same right to life, liberty and property that their mothers and fathers do. As Ron Paul, a fine and upstanding libertarian, has pointed out, there are few acts of aggression more violent and unprovoked than those involved in murderously vivisecting an unborn child.
There is not a single pro-abortion argument that stands up to science and reason. Every single one is not only spurious, but easily demonstrated to be spurious. It is not necessary to bring religious arguments into the debate to conclusively settle the matter in favor of the pro-life position, in fact, the Bible-based arguments against abortion are, in my opinion, weaker than the rational and scientific arguments.
Criminalizing abortion is no more questionable from a libertarian position than criminalizing murder. It is an act of lethal, unprovoked aggression, often state-supported and sometimes state-dictated, of the sort that every libertarian, religious or secular, should vehemently oppose.
Incidentally, as a Christian, I absolutely agree with Vox Day that the Bible-based arguments are weaker than the arguments from nature and reason. The Bible recognizes the same principles of moral reason that can be applied to the abortion question, but those principles of moral reason do not depend on the Bible. It is possible to know that murder is wrong apart from the Bible (and indeed impossible not to know that murder is wrong), and it is possible to know that unborn children are human and therefore ought not be murdered through plain reason (with scientific factual support if necessary for rebuttal purposes). Those who disbelieve in the Bible have no refuge against these arguments.
(Additionally, note that there is an organization of pro-life libertarians.)