Libertarians for Life


Jeremy Lott (a former Reason intern and currently an editor at the American Spectator, where he occasionally runs pieces by me and my colleagues) has some interesting observations on the nexus between libertarians and the pro-life position. An excerpt:

Call it a paradox if you wish, but as someone who's flirted with joining the church of Rome, the parallels between Protestant misunderstandings of Catholicism and general churchy misgivings about laissez faire types are striking, and they usually boil down to an utter lack of hands-on experience. In some rarefied reality, the pro-life and libertarian ideals may be set against each other. But in our very messy, muddled world, I don't see the contradictions.
Jim Henley has said about why classical liberals are so prickly at times: "We are all moralists at heart."

Libertarians make a big deal about government regulation of drugs, and trade, and video games for a number of reasons, I'm sure, some of them no doubt selfish. But the main cause of our outrage, and of our persistence past when many people would've called it quits, is that these intrusions offend our moral vision of how the world should work….

Most Christian critics of libertarianism tut-tutt at its celebration of individualism, but as my colleague Shawn Macomber has argued, it cuts both ways. In order for classical liberal philosophy to place such importance on individual decisions, it has to vest individuals with tremendous importance. It must assign them rights, work out a basis for those rights, and sort out what happens when the claims compete. In fact, at some point, it begins to sound like that "dignity of the human person" that Catholic apologists love to go on about.

The impact of this analysis has not been lost on libertarians with regard to the unborn, if this author's experience is in any way representative. My home in the Washington, D.C., area is a nexus of free market economists and libertarian think tankers, and the circles I move in are lousy with the latter-day apostles of Adam Smith. To pilfer Mencken, I couldn't heave an egg out of a Pullman window without hitting a libertarian, though doing so would arguably violate the non-initiation of force principle.

The D.C. libertarian scene isn't a hotbed of pro-life activism, but it sure surprised me. I expected a stony-faced pro-choice consensus and instead got long conversations trying to work out that messy area where ideology and life collide. And I was surprised to hear relieved admissions that they were pro-life as well. I sometimes describe my politics as pro-life and pro-drugs, to which one surprised correspondent recently replied, "I thought I was the only one."

For most libertarians it depends, as cliched as it sounds, on when you think life begins. Although libertarian philosopher and economist Murray Rothbard argued in his book The Ethics of Liberty that a purist libertarian position might grant that a fetus is a human life, but come to a perhaps unexpected conclusion from this starting point:

Most fetuses are in the mother's womb because the mother consents to this situation….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….let us concede…that fetuses are human beings…and are therefore entitled to full human rights. But what humans, we may ask, have the right to be coercive parasites within the body of an unwilling human host? Clearly, no born humans have such a right, and therefore…the fetus can have no such right either.

NEXT: I Have Seen the Future, and It Is a Chicken

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  1. JB,

    Thoreau’s questions are good questions and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed without arguement. Why is #1 irrelevant? I’m genuinely curious and am not looking to attack. By answering that it doesn’t matter, it seems you are positting the default position that the answer is “rights are generated upon exiting the female.” This is debatable. If you are not positting this, then the question still remains to be answered.

  2. There’s gotta be a gaping hole in my car accident analogy somewhere.

    Little help here?

  3. I think the fact that this issue is so often expressed in terms of two opposing choices is at the root of the difficulty that it has of getting resolved. Does life begin at conception or at viability outside the womb? Is it a mother’s right to choose what to do to her body, or is it the fetus’s right to live? Pro-life or pro-choice? Breaking it down like this into two opposing viewpoints all the time will never get the issue resolved except by litigation that leaves one side out in the cold. There are other factors that can be considered.

    For instance, there are many stages of the development of the fetus that can be considered. What if we consider life to begin when the blastocyst attaches to the uterus and starts the process of dividing into individual cells? That gives a good 2 or 3 days after conception to terminate a truly undesired pregnancy (i.e. rape).

    There are also options other than just aborting a 1/3 grown fetus, or not aborting it. Like the morning after pill.

    There is also the issue not only of the right of the mother to do what she wishes with her body, but the responsibility of the mother to do what is right for her and her unborn child.

    Taking all of these other issues into account, and there’s some middle ground that I think can be explored. For instance…when a man and woman have consensual sex, I think it would be difficult to argue that there are too many adults in this country who don’t realize the possible outcome, even after using several methods of birth control. So a pregnancy occuring after a sexual union shouldn’t really be considered an “unwanted invasion”. In the case of rape, it obviously is. But with consensual sex, for a woman to claim that she wasn’t willing to accept the responsibility of having a child means that she shouldn’t have partaken of an act that she knew could have led to that result.

    This also goes back to the issue of choice. By the time a woman is 3 months pregnant, she’s already made several choices. She’s made the choice to have sex, unprotected or not. She’s made the choice to consider keeping the baby (which shows recognition of responsibility). These things are all choices which have come before the choice to have an abortion. A 3rd poor choice shouldn’t be a viable remedy for 2 previous poor choices.

    I’m of the opinion that if the morning after pill were legalized in this country and made the only legal form of abortion, that alot of the difficulty with the abortion issue would be resolved. If a woman has sex but is sure she doesn’t want a child, she has at least a day where she can ensure that doesn’t happen. If she’s raped and wants to insure that she doesn’t become pregnant, she can. Make the morning after pill available to anyone who can get a condom, and you’d cut way down on unwanted pregnancies, and eliminate abortions in all but the cases where the mother’s life is threatened.

    The religious pro-lifers would have to compromise a day or two of their belief of the beginning of life, but maybe if it were pointed out that a good 10% of all pregnancies simply don’t “take” and never attach to the womb, they might realize that they can compromise at least that far. The pro-choice camp would have to make the compromise that a woman would have less time to make her choice. But the choice would be there. I think it’s a good middle ground. Of course, not everyone will agree with me. But remaining stubborn on an issue where a viable compromise is available is not really a reasonable action.

  4. I’ve been arguing a very similar position to that of Rothbard for a long time. I think part of the problem is the absolute sanctity of human life, which is an ideal that sounds good, but like all extremes can cause major problems. The fetus is parasidic, the host has a choice. If a person decided to crawl up into your body and live there, would you not have the right to expel it? Even if that cost the person to lose their life?

  5. Brian,

    I don’t think anyone who has read J.J. Thomson’s 1971 article “A Defense of Abortion” would be surprised at Rothbard’s sort of argument.

    Thomson argued that even if the fetus was a person, it did not necessarily possess a right to life that trumped the rights of the woman to elective abortion.

    Some of the article can be found at:

    It is precisely here that I see little difference between a liberal position on abortion (Thomson) and a libertarian one (Rothbard).

    Can anyone name for me a prominent libertarian theorist that takes an anti-abortion position?

  6. The advocates of criminalizing abortion call themselves “pro-life” for obvious reasons of publicity. That’s only to be expected. But this is no reason to passively accept their self-labeling, as the media generally do and as Brian Doherty does. The implication of the label is that it’s agreed that a fetus is a human life, and the only question is whether you are for or against human life.

    The technique allows cheap tactics equivocating on the term, such as the “your mother chose life” bumper sticker. Everyone who doesn’t commit suicide “chooses life,” but this has no bearing on the aborion issue.

    By declaring the opposing position to be “pro-choice,” the media give us the absurdity of regarding life and choice as opposing alternatives. Choices are made by living beings.

    But by taking advantage of the media labelling that has gone on for so long without a question being raised, the advocates of abortion criminalization are able to call themselves “libertarians for life” with a straight face.

  7. I tend to agree that Thoreau’s initial question is salient. I think, though, for clarity, I would rephrase it:

    “When does an individual with inherent rights emerge in the development of a fetus?”

    While I agree that asking about “life” or “human life” might confuse the issue, I think the above formulation gets to the heart of the matter Thoreau was concerned with. (I like the formulation “person” myself, but I take “person” to mean precisely an individual entity with inherent rights.)

    If we are to accept that the concept of inherent or natural rights is important, then we must contemplate why that concept applies to one stage of life and not another.


  8. Joe,

    Perhaps it’s because there is no alternate scenario for the fetus, ie. the victem of the accident could have lived without the accident forcing him into a state of dependance whereas the fetus could not live without the host either way. It’s a pretty good analogy, but I tend to agree with the earlier post that there may not be a proper analogy.

  9. JB,

    I can see your “No” to #2 from thoreau, but

    3) None – for whether the father has a say is wrong (even though that is the current situation in the western society). For this to be true, the father should not be held responsible for the child support after the bastard is born. But we have many cases where courts have awarded childsupport to moms from guys who have proved that they are not the ‘father’

    1) why does it not matter? If a woman can abort a baby a day before it is due, why can’t the same woman refuse to feed the baby (or otherwise ‘declare’ the baby to be a ‘parasite’ and let it die?)

    I think that the line should be drawn when the featus can be viable (if born) outside the mother. I am sure medical consensus would show that the abortion line can be drawn somewhere during the 7th – 9th month of pregnancy.

    I would think an adult woman should have the right to abort until the 3rd trimester; that is plenty of time to decide and exercise her choice. Once the featus is viable, it is not much different to kill it than to kill the just- born. States should provide exceptions in the case of mom’s life/health, etc.

  10. I don’t feel like checking this thread all day – I’m really not into the whole “when life begins” debate. Instead,does anyone want to explain how an abortion prohibition would work?

    I’ve yet to hear any pro-lifer, ever, address this. Maybe today will be my lucky day?

  11. JB: Still kinda boggling over your rejection of thoreau’s question 1. To me, that is the FIRST question we need to answer. If you could say with absolute certainty that the answer to it (or Mandrake’s rewording) is, say, Day 90, then you’ve just simplified things. Before Day 90, there is only one person involved (the mother), and her right to privacy, choice, etc., is paramount, and noone can rightfully interfere with her decision anymore than one can interfere with someone who decides to give blood or cut their fingernails. Before that day there could be no (reasonable, libertarian) argument for prohibition. Only after Day 90, would the Rothbardian argument come into play, or any other argument that balances right-of-mother v/s life-of-fetus. I really fail to see how you can dismiss it out of hand in such a fashion. Even if you believe that the right of the mother is always paramount, no matter what, then you can at least see that answering that question would surely put to rest most considered opposition to abortions occurring before that day.

    joe: An interesting analogy, but here’s the gaping hole: If the drunk chooses to donate the kidney, and the victim lives, the drunk is only charged with negligence or DUI or reckless driving–some charge that relates only to the accident, and not to the meat of the analogy. If he chooses not to donate the kidney, and the fellow dies, now he’s charged with at least vehicular homicide or even (in NC at least) first-degree murder (yeah, I know, I’ve had lots of arguments over that one).

    OTOH, if a mother chooses to bear the child, she has to deal with the responsibility of raising the child or putting it up for adoption. If she aborts then, what? Nothing, at least, nothing if the state allows her to abort. Even if the state does not force the drunk to give up his kidney, there are still state sanctions if he does not (within your analogy).

  12. Titus,

    Regarding how a ban would work, that’s a good question. The question isn’t just one of enforcing a ban either. What do Pro-Life people propose we do about the offspring of crack whores, for instance? How do you protect a fetus from a mother who’s smoking crack? Should we throw crack whores in special maternity prisons until they have their offspring? According to the Pro-Life line, the fetus has rights after all.

    But there are serious problems with Choice as we know it too. Should we be allowing pregnant children to have abortions without a parent’s knowledge, much less consent? Should Christian Fundamentalists be coerced into financing an abortion procedure with the fruit of their labor by way of Medicare and MedicAid/MediCal? As a Libertarian, I have big problems with both of those things too.

  13. Except that the mother brought this fetus into her body without the fetus having any choice in the matter

    The mother “brought this fetus into here body”? From where?

  14. There is the obvious example of abortion in the case of rape. By definition, the woman has not consented. Does the fetus that is a product of rape have a lesser “right” to live than the fetus that is the product of consensual sex? If one determines that a fetus has this right, then why should this right depend on the actions of a third party? To me, the oft noted core issue is whether a fetus has human rights. If one conclude the fetus has not these rights, then disposal should be no more significant than having a cyst removed. If, on the other, one concludes the fetus has human rights, then the actions of the mother and father are subordinate
    concerns. The right of a person should not hinge on the actions of others, even biological parents.

    If one determines a fetus has human rights, there are two thorny questions. One, how are these rights protected? Two, how does one enforce a positive obligation of the biological parents? It is one thing to collect child support. It is another entirely to force a women to carry a child until birth.

    It seems both problems require the police power of the State to extend to the uterus. I am nervous enough with the notion of police entering the bounds of private property property let alone human bodies. There is also the familiar argument that prohibition simply moves abortions from clean legal clinics into shadowy alleys.

    While Roe v. Wade is a legal morass, I suggest the Americans have found something of a pragmatic middle ground. When the fetus is entirely dependent on the mother for its existence, the right of termination rests with the mother. Once the fetus develops to the point of being able to exist outside the mother’s body, the fetus is generally protected.

    Allowing first trimester abortions seems to respect the right of a woman to her body and limits the police powers of the state. Prohibiting 11th hour abortions protects fetuses that are viable outside the womb. It is not what Solomon expected, but it seems less draconian than most alternatives.

  15. titus, I can’t take you’re on, because you’re right. It would be extremely difficult to enforce. In fact, if the state has the power (and, hence, the obligation) to prohibit abortion, then it can only do so because the fetus has a right to life. If the fetus does have right to life, then a woman throwing herself down the stairs has just committed murder. A pregnant woman who gets drunk or goes hang gliding is guilty of, what, child abuse? endangering a minor? So sure, the enforcement is hairy, and you make a good pragmatic point, but that still doesn’t change the underlying argument. It’s hard to track down murderers and arsonists, too; doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

    The abortion argument is a lot like the vegetarian argument for most (reasonable) people, I think. There’s really no middle ground in either case, and the right answer comes down to a logical question that can’t be empirically answered. If “animals are people”, then meat is murder, period. No middle ground. If animals aren’t people, then it’s stupid (and wrong) to bitch about me eating a burger. If a fetus (of a certain stage) is a person, with rights, then abortion (after that stage) is murder. No middle ground. But, before that stage, or if the fetus is not a person, then it’s stupid (and wrong) to interfere with a woman making a decision about her body.

    So, if you honestly believe animals are people, how can you stand by and let other people (who you believe are simply misguided) kill them, any more than you could stand by while somebody shoots another person on the street? And the same goes for abortion. The morals can be the same on both sides, and the only point of contention be a question of fact. That (combined with stupid invective from both sides) is what makes these issues so difficult, I think.

  16. A few quick points on this.

    First, many active libertarians are pro-life, or at least anti-abortion if you prefer. Some are major players in the various think tanks and publications within the movement. A good starting point would be to read the works of my friend Doug Bandow, who I think could be called pro-life but whose views on the subject are (properly) nuanced and complex.

    Second, those surprised by the weakness of Rothbard’s argument here ? and make no mistake, it is very weak ? should not be. While I respect his work on economics immensely, he was not exactly a pristine logician on matters of public-policy application (or foreign policy, not to change the subject).

    Third, defining when a human life begins, for the purposes of legal and constitutional protection, is critical to offering a coherent view in this debate. Contrary to the suggestions of some pro-lifers, it cannot be the only factor, as there are issues of consent, but I don’t think you can talk about the issue meaningfully without coming up with some kind of definition.

    Moreover, and here’s where I’d break with most pro-choice libertarians, you cannot argue that such a definition should be up to individual moral decision. If abortion constitutes the killing of a person, it is very much the business of civil government in a free society. If it does not, then obviously it occurs behind the shield of the natural right to liberty and is beyond governmental oversight. But to answer this question inevitably leads you, and policymakers, to define personhood.

    Bottom line for me: if we declare people to be dead when their brain ceases functioning, then that suggests an appropriate test for the presence of a human life — brain function. Because most natural-rights defenses of individual rights also stem from the human being?s unique rational faculty, brain function would again seem an appropriate test. In the real world, of course, there is no bright red line here, applicable in every pregnancy and detectable in every case, so some arbitrariness is, unfortunately, required. But arbitrariness is inescapable in many areas of application of libertarian principle, such as the true extent of a right of property in a particular piece of land (how deep, how high, how loud, etc.) and especially in an iteration of ideas (patent and copyright).

    I think folks have a legitimate point when they argue that, even if in theory many abortions should be illegal, there are serious practical problems with enforcing such a law. As I understand it, mainstream pro-life groups have been grappling with this in a serious way for at least a decade by stressing that changes in culture and individual behavior would have to accompany any eventual, major change in law.

    Lastly, it does libertarianism a disservice when those engaged in promoting the philosophy end up advocating positions that are profoundly contrary to life as actually experienced by real human beings. It makes us look like clueless geeks hiding in our parents’ attics. Any position on abortion that treats a developing human life as a ?parasite? has this unfortunate rhetorical affect. Similarly, Joe’s analogy may seem clever but it is actually ghastly — to compare a drunk driver’s dangerous behavior to the conception of a potential human being.

    In short, there’s a reason why libertarians of good faith disagree on this issue. It ‘s complicated, and does not lend itself well to sloganeering or immature finger-pointing.

  17. The question of an abortion ban is an interesting one. Let’s suppose that, hypothetically, Roe vs. Wade is overturned. (I’ll pause as some people hypothetically dance in the streets while others hypothetically scream bloody murder… 🙂

    If the issue went back to the states (a big “if”, since Congress fancies itself an omnipotent lawmaker on any and all matters not in the Constitution, but humor me for a minute) then here’s what would happen:

    A few states would have outright bans. Most would have varying degrees of restrictions. A few would have virtually unlimited abortion.

    What about women who can’t afford to travel to another state for an abortion? Well, if the pro-choice movement was smart about it (a big “if”, given that activists of any stripe can be pretty thick-skulled, but humor me for a minute), here’s what they’d do:

    Establish an “underground railroad” (that name was chosen deliberately, since I have a hunch it would be adopted by pro-choicers) to shuttle women across state lines for abortions. Fund it through the same fund-raising machinery that currently funds their lobbying and campaigns.

    The result would be readily accessible abortion for adult women all across the US. I see 4 obstacles:

    1) States might try to ban travel across state lines for abortion. I don’t see those restrictions standing up in federal court, but who knows?
    2) Minors would still be screwed.
    3) A Republican Congress might always try to ban abortion nationwide. Yes, I know, it isn’t in the Constitution, but when has that stopped them? However, that would be political suicide for them.
    4) Pro-choicers might not see the benefits of free movement across state lines, and might continue to pour their efforts into political campaigns and lawsuits.

    Anyway, that’s what I see.

  18. In short, there’s a reason why libertarians of good faith disagree on this issue. It ‘s complicated, and does not lend itself well to sloganeering or immature finger-pointing.

    Excellent point!

  19. John,

    I don’t deny that there are people like Bandow and Lott who self-identify as libertarians.

    What I am tempted to deny is that there is sufficient ground (given the facts of biology and the resources of libertarian theory) to justify the state’s prohibiting elective abortions.

    I can’t find any scholarly treatment of this issue by Bandow, only an NR Online article:

  20. Method:

    Murders and acts of arson involve a person or property that is observable by others – someone/thing is noticably destroyed. There are clues. A woman having an abortion is different – who is going to notice a missing fetus? Who will report the crime?

    It’s one thing to say someone/thing deserves rights and protection. But if it is impossible to grant those rights, what’s the point of the debate?

    To say (paraphrase) “how can someone who believes abortion is murder stand by and let it happen” addresses my main question: What makes these people think they have the ability to prevent it from happening?

    Hubris. It’s certainly understandable for someone to consider abortion a terrible thing – murder, even. But when they bring that viewpoint into the law, they should at least be able to explain how they’re going to prosecute and punish. Only then will the “when does life begin” debate be important in the political arena.

  21. I came to comment how insensitive it is to label an unwanted fetus a “parasite” but lots of others have already said it.

    Titus: You seem to believe in the right to an abortion. Maybe you think it’s in the “penumbra” of our Constitution, even. Tell me, then, can this right be waived? Like other rights, like the right to be free from search? A homeowner has the right not to be searched, but can waive it. If a woman has a right to abortion, but does not have one by the 5th month, can’t we say she has waived the right, and government could prohibit her from getting an abortion?

    That is all

    Your flippant comment “fetus, you wouldn’t want to be born into a world that would protect your right to life” or whatever is off base. There will be blackmarket abortions, I will admit, if abortion is made illegal. But the enforcement mechanism I advocate is saying any doctor who performs an abortion except in cases of life or health of the mother (rape, incest too) loses his doctor’s license. Doctors are already in an enormously regulated industry, so don’t reach for that tired old canard about “getting between a woman and her doctor.” And, if we can at least agree that the right to an abortion is waived if the woman waits 5 months, then I’ll take that deal and we’ll at last have something on the books that limits the wide-open abortion laws inthis country since 1973.

    that is all.

  22. I hate seeing libertarians falling into the pro-life/pro-choice black-hole debate. IMHO libertarianism doesn’t dictate a position on abortion law, instead it dictates a position on federalism. The problem with abortion is Roe-v-Wade, the problem is having the SCOTUS crafting legislation (with no actual supporting text in the Constitution). Prior to RvW abortion was just as divisive, but the states were struggling with the issue themselves. That was as it should be.

    Abortion is an example of the federal government running roughshod over the people. A government institution (the Supreme Court) claimed that the ?vapors and emanations? of the constitution compelled them to wield power that the actual text forbade them from doing.

  23. titus,

    On enforcement, as you are probably aware, the police can conduct warrantless searches if they have reason to suspect there is imminent threat to human life and life.

    Like, say, when a doctor might very well be talking to one of his patients about murdering her baby.

    Of course, there would by definition be no similar justification for the police to listen in on conversations between doctors and their female patients.

  24. Sorry if this comes out too much like an ad hominem attack, but…

    Jean Bart’s monosyllabic responses to the very relevant questions thoreau asks are EXACTLY why it is impossible to discuss abortion with liberals. I’m probably, sort of, kind of pro-choice, but much of the pro-choice dogma makes me uneasy simply because they don’t address the questions thoreau is asking. And it’s pointless to even raise the questions with liberals, as demonstrated by JB’s lockstep dismissals.

    Tell me, Jean Bart — did you come to this country after the fall of the wall put you and the rest of the Stasi out of work?

  25. Jean Bart’s monosyllabic responses to the very relevant questions thoreau asks are EXACTLY why it is impossible to discuss abortion with liberals.

    Jean addressed the questions thoreau was asking. Why does the length of his answers matter?

    Let me flesh out Jean’s answers a bit for you, the way I would answer them at least:

    (1): “When does life begin?”

    It doesn’t matter, because nobody has a right to live in another person’s body, nor does anyone have a right to be kept alive at another person’s expense.

    (2): “Does consensual sex by adults involve an implicit willingness to take responsibility for whatever children might result?”

    No. What more are you looking for in the way of an answer? The default answer for any question of “is there an implicit willingness to _____” is always “no” unless demonstrably otherwise.

    (3): “What rights does the father have?”

    Jean answered “None”; personally, I would have said “He has neither rights nor responsibilities, as the decision to have the child is not his.” But that’s still “none”. Perhaps Jean meant “none, he has to just live with what the woman wants”, which I would not agree with.

  26. Here’s another issue to gnaw on while thinking about what should be done about abortion. What about miscarriages, nature’s abortion? If abortion is made illegal, what proportion of miscarriages are going to lead to murder investigation?

    The whole issue is a sticky one. Maybe it’s the biologist in me, but I find it insulting to think of a blastocyte as the same thing as a baby. One doesn’t consider an acorn an oak tree. However, I can’t think of a 3rd trimester fetus as an undifferentiated clump of cells, either. It’s closer to being a baby. Viability outside the womb isn’t a good line because that’s a technology issue, not a biological or moral issue. As soon as we have artificial wombs, which will be in my lifetime, the moment of conception will be a viable embryo.

    For me, in the first trimester the embryo is still not a “person,” while in the third, I am comfortable in saying that it basically is. Perhaps the solution is to make the abortion of viable embryos after the first trimester is illegal and those that want an abortion can give the child up for adoption and have the embryo removed and continue development outside the womb. Pro-life orgs can use the money they spend on political organizations to help fund this (I do NOT want the feds paying for this).

  27. Dan:

    It doesn’t matter, because nobody has a right to live in another person’s body, nor does anyone have a right to be kept alive at another person’s expense.

    Do you really mean this, or is your statement meant to be mocking?

    Absolutely, an unborn child (definitions vary, naturally, but surely anyone with moral sense would stipulate this to be true at 7 or 8 months) has a right to live and develop within his or her mother’s body, so long as the mother was neither raped or underage when conception occurred. The mother (and father) took the knowing risk of pregnancy when engaging in sex. Responsibilities flow from that.

    Furthermore, children absolutely have the right to live at another person’s expense — the parent. My sons have a legally enforceable, and a clearly moral, right to my support. I helped bring them into the world, thus I bear the responsibility for their proper care, development, and socialization so they do not become a burden on others and grow into responsible adults.

    Libertarianism is not a flight from reality. It flows from reality, from nature of things. In this case, the nature of human reproduction is not subject to redefinition by analogy or bizarre theory.

  28. Only on this forum could a baby be considered a lousy free-loader. I admit to using the word “parasite” in my first post, but I was simply pointing out that it is only applicable if parents have no responsibilities to the unborn child.

    I am not suggesting that abortion should or shouldn’t be legal, because there is a large tangle of issues to resolve. But John Hood is absolutely right about the “You have no right to be here, baby. Get a job and a place of your own!” approach to the fetus. Abortion may or may not be a proper/ethical/moral/whatever course of action, but simply treating the baby as a free-loader is a horrible use of language, and it only makes libertarian pro-choicers look really, really, bad.

    By the way, I’d like to add a fourth question to the list in my original post:

    4) If the state is indeed justified in banning abortion (a conclusion that is contingent on certain responses to the first 3 questions), can an abortion ban be made and enforced without a draconian state? Obviously 100% compliance with ANY law can only be obtained via draconian measures, but could some reasonable level of compliance be obtained without widespread loss of liberty?

    For laws against theft, rape, etc. the answer seems to be “yes.” For abortion, well, I’ll let both sides shout each other down over that one.

  29. Why the focus on when, exactly, someone becomes a person? That’s completely beside the point.

    I had a friend in high school who was in a coma and on life support for weeks. But just because he was completely unconscious and incapable of breathing on his own, it didn’t give anyone the right to terminate his life. That’s because, from the very begining, his doctors gave him an excellent prognosis, and, indeed, he went on to live a productive life.

    Expectation gave him the right to life regardless of whether or not he was conscious or whether or not his vital functions performed independently or whether or not his life was inconvienient to someone else. In spite of failing such tests, just like a fetus, he still had a Constitutional right to liberty, the pursuit of happiness and life.

    From the moment of conception, in most cases, it is not unreasonable to expect that a fetus will develop. If a woman makes the choice to willingly engage in an act that creates another person, she has a special responsibility, unlike any other, to protect the liberty, pursuit of happiness and life of that fetus.

    Whether or not a civil society should enforce this responsibility is another question entirely. But the answer has nothing to do with the exact stage at which a fetus becomes human.

  30. titus:

    If enforceability were a prerequisite for laws, we wouldn’t have very many laws. Traffic laws come immediately to mind. Speed limits are eminently unenforceable–there are probably very few drivers who don’t break at least one traffic law every time they get behind the wheel. Does that mean we should do away with them?

    What about child abuse? Particularly emotional or sexual abuse? No physical scars, perhaps no outward signs, or none easy to spot. In many cases, no way to prove without covert surveillance or convincing the child to testify against his or her parents. Does this mean we should consider not having laws against such abuse simply because its hard to observe?

    I can’t accept impracticality as a reason not to attempt to protect the rights of an individual. If of course there is an individual with rights to protect. I think more important than the practical aspects are the logical extensions, as some have addressed above. Do we look closely at miscarriages? Might there be a situation where an inquest would be held for an unborn child? I fully admit that the weirdness cuts both ways in this case.

    Dan: John Hood is certainly right. What in your logic does not also apply to a newborn infant?

    I think my feelings are similar to Mo’s, as a lot of people’s probably are. I find it hard to believe that a clump of cells from a recently fertilized egg is a “person”, and I also find it hard, perhaps harder, to believe that a baby just a short time away from being born is not a person. Which means that it becomes a person somewhere in between, so how the hell do you figure out when? I sure don’t know. For that matter, I can’t claim _absolute_ certainty that life doesn’t begin at conception, although I’d be surprised if it did.

    I think, though, that’s I’ve hit upon the real solution. It’s more logically sound, but slightly more hardhearted than Rothbard’s–It doesn’t matter whether a fetus is a person or not, it only matters that it isn’t a citizen until born, and therefore is not subject to the protection of the US government.

    (Yes, that is a joke.)

  31. John Hood –
    “Libertarianism is not a flight from reality. It flows from reality, from nature of things.”

    Forcing a reluctant couple/mother to bear the baby based on ones arbitrary definition of when life begins is flighty too. The mother may not want to have the child for any number of compelling reasons including practical considerations like poverty, a career, who knows what. Seems to me that many pro-life folks are willing to sacrifice the mother’s ability to make a personal decision, & very possibly the childs “real” life as opposed to the potential of one, on the altar of their principle.

  32. Do you really mean [that nobody has a right to be kept alive at another person’s expense], or is your statement meant to be mocking?

    I really meant it.

    Absolutely, an unborn child (definitions vary, naturally, but surely anyone with moral sense would stipulate this to be true at 7 or 8 months) has a right to live and develop within his or her mother’s body, so long as the mother was neither raped or underage when conception occurred

    There’s nothing “absolute” about it. That is your opinion, and it’s not an uncommon one. But I don’t believe it, nor have I ever heard a convincing moral case for it.

    The mother (and father) took the knowing risk of pregnancy when engaging in sex. Responsibilities flow from that.

    No, they don’t. Responsibilities can only flow from a mutual agreement. The mother cannot have made an agreement with her unborn child at the time of sex, because it didn’t exist. Therefore, she has no responsibilities to it. It exists without her consent, in her body, without her consent, with no agreement giving it the right to do so. Indeed, the very fact that abortion is an available option for a woman means that the act of sex does not inherently carry with it an agreement to bear children.

    Furthermore, there is no coherent moral argument for an “underage or raped” exception. The only difference between a fetus that is the result of rape and one which is the result of consentual sex is that, in the former case, the mother and the FATHER have no agreement. The non-existant “agreement” between mother and fetus is the same in either case..

    On a final note, your own argument falls apart in the following scenario: the man and woman have sex, after agreeing that in the event of pregnancy an abortion will be performed. Not exactly romantic, but it eliminates any possible confusion about implied consent to pregnancy. 🙂

  33. thoreau

    I’m kinda where you’re at…and tilting toward titus. I would add a nuance to your argument– “draconian” is partly an experienced thing…for many, even most, Americans now, even an effective enforcement of a law in this area would SEEM draconian…even if only a few doctors were prosecuted.

  34. John Hood is certainly right. What in your logic does not also apply to a newborn infant?

    My logic does apply to a newborn infant. That is why, for example, it is not an evil act to give a child up for adoption (i.e., abandon your “responsibility” to raise it and pay for its upkeep).

    If you truly believe that parents have a moral responsibility to raise their children, then you must necessarily view it as morally wrong to give a child up for adoption for ANY reason other than to save its life.

    My father was adopted. My grandmother, whoever she was, was an almost certainly American, and therefore unlikely to have given my father up for adoption to save his life. Were I to follow the moral system that you and John are offering, I must necessarily consider her to have been, at best, amoral, and at worst actively evil, because she abandoned a moral responsibility you claim she had: providing for my father. I just don’t see it that way.

  35. Dan: “an unborn child has a right to live and develop…”
    But I don’t believe it, nor have I ever heard a convincing moral case for it.

    Just so I know what you’re saying here: It seems to me that you’re saying that a person becomes a person at the exact moment of birth. A fetus/baby whatever has NO rights until it is outside of its mother’s body. Is the moment when it crowns, when it’s fully out, or when the cord is cut? In other words (to be perfectly crude), as long as you can still get the coat hanger up there, it’s all good. Hell, it’s probably easier after she’s dilated. Truly the “magic” of birth, then. Sorry kid, shoulda been five minutes earlier.

    Nope, sorry, can’t accept it. The reason you’ve never seen a good moral case for it, is that there’s a damn good logical case for it. I defy anyone to tell me the fundamental difference between a baby five minutes before and five minutes after birth that makes it a “thing” before and a “person” after. I can’t think of a single argument that applies to a baby two weeks before birth that doesn’t apply to a two year old child.

  36. “Responsibilities can only flow from a mutual agreement.”


    You are way, way out there with that statement, and it seems to be the basis for your argument.

    Have you ever heard of a unilateral contract? What about strict liability?

  37. Dan: Sorry, I’m a step behind you, here timewise.

    Re: adoption. I won’t say this often, but nonsense. Putting a newborn up for adoption is fine. In fact, that may be the best thing for the child. Dumping a child in the trash can is not. I have a hard time seeing how you believe that anyone is conflating killing an unborn child (because we were speaking in the context of very late term abortions) and allowing someone else to provide a good home for your child. And if it matters, my mother was adopted.

    So to put it in plain English: Making an honest attempt to provide for your child’s welfare is good, even if that attempt means allowing someone else (e.g. adoptive parents, boarding school, foster care, whatever) to provide for the child.

    Killing a child is bad. Since I can’t find any logical difference between a very late term fetus and a child, I can’t find any difference between a very late term abortion and infanticide.

    Jeez… I never thought I’d actually find myself arguing against very late term abortions.

  38. Ken, I hadn’t even gotten around to that part. It’s scary. To borrow joe’s analogy, if I get falling down drunk, get in the car, run over somebody, does it make it all better if I then say, “I didn’t intend to! In fact, I tried my best to keep to my side of the road and stay off the sidewalk.”? Of course I didn’t set out with the intent to kill somebody, I set out with the intent to get home from the bar. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m responsible for the results of my actions. When I have sex, I’m doing it to have fun, not to make babies. But I know that babies are a possible result of sex, and as such it would become my responsibility if one were to result even though that wasn’t my intent.

    I’m just imagining the defenses this makes possible. “I was just trying to know him out.” “I was aiming at his arm, not his head.” “I was trying to pass the schoolbus, not run over the kids getting off it.” Lack of intent does not absolve one from the consequences of a negligent act. That’s why they call it negligence.

  39. err… “knock him out”… figures–the one post I don’t preview…

  40. Dan:

    The mother cannot have made an agreement with her unborn child at the time of sex, because it didn’t exist. Therefore, she has no responsibilities to it. It exists without her consent, in her body, without her consent, with no agreement giving it the right to do so.

    You understand, of course, that your argument means that a mother (or father) has no contractual relationship to care for a child until that child is old enough to form a contract with the parent. You must be kidding me. If a mother has no right to let her new-born baby starve to death — you’re with me there, right? — then please tell me why not. To whom does she owe the responsibility to feed that child? (adoption being, naturally, a perfectly acceptable means of discharging such responsibility, to answer your other, rather odd point). The dad? He might be around, known, or alive. Society at large?

    Your argument is the kind of thing that drives the pro-lifers to see infanticide around the corner unless all abortions are banned and all fetal research prohibited.

    To answer the question, the mother certainly has a moral responsibility to the child to feed that child. She also has a moral responsibility, I would argue, perhaps one might call it an implied social contract with her fellow citizens to feed the child so that it does not become a ward of the state. Finally, there is an inter-generational contract going on — the parent cares for the child, who then cares for the elderly parent.

  41. Uh, make that “He might not be around, known, or alive.” Kinda changes the meaning. Sorry.

  42. My position on the whole debate is summed up by an old joke from Ivan Stang:

    “Abortion is murder, but it’s murder in self-defence.”

  43. Arguing for the inferiority of one human life versus another based on the facts of its conception, location, intellect, or other perceived or described infirmity strikes me as arbitrary and untenable.

    The unborn human fetus either has moral standing or it does not. If it does then it deserves protection, no matter how much the mother (host) might complain about the pre and post birth inconveniece.

  44. For most libertarians it depends, as cliched as it sounds, on when you think life begins.

    It also depends on whether you think the Constitution guarantees every American the right to an abortion. I’m basically pro-choice, but I don’t think Roe v. Wade make much sense. (Nor does a federal partial-birth abortion ban.)

  45. Couldn’t Rothbard’s argument be extended to say that a child has no legitimate claim on a parent that such parent must care for him or her? If a pregnant woman can withdraw her consent from a fetus to parasitize her, couldn’t a parent likewise withdraw his or her consent from a “parasitic” child and thrust this child onto the street?

  46. “Clearly, no born humans have such a right, and therefore…the fetus can have no such right either.”

    That’s not quite right. If the mother consents (tacitly or explicitly) to get pregnant, she is deciding to hold the fetus’s life in her hands. You can’t just go and dismiss that obligation. “Born humans” have that right too… many analogies come to mind… if we go mountain climbing, and I agree to secure your lifeline, but later decide to cut the line, causing you to fall to your death… well, that’s murder, isn’t it?

  47. It’s that old subservient chicken and the egg argument again.

  48. “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….”

    Except that the mother brought this fetus into her body without the fetus having any choice in the matter. She is obligated to care for it. I’m surprised that Murray Rothbard would make such a shoddy argument.

  49. I am firmly in the anti-abortion camp, but I disagree that the rights of the baby automatically and always trump the rights of the mother. But I also disagree that the mother should have no restrictions on the ability to abort her child.

    The abortion debate inevitably devolves into an argument about the rights of the mother versus the rights of the unborn child. But I can count four other parties that have a significant interest in the outcome of the pregnancy other than the mother and child – the father, the mother’s extended family, the father’s extended family, and the society at large. The interest of these parties is altogether ignored in the debate.

    This issue is much more complicated than the courts tried to make it in Roe v. Wade. But to even have the conversation in leftists circles amounts to heresy. No new scientific information is allowed to conflict with the notion that abortion is the sole domain of the woman.

    And the prospect of deciding this issue in the Legislature where the competing and unequal interest of the six different parties can be weighed and considered is so frightening to leftists that they filibuster the selection of any judge on the mere possibility that he would turn the issue over to the Legislature – not outlaw abortion mind you – but simply decide that the complexity of the issue demands Legislative resolution that can evolve over time.

    I don’t line up perfectly with rightist dogma. Yet I am able to have these conversations within Rightist circles without being publicly excoriated. The same conversation in leftist circles might actually put me in physical danger, and is certainly not accepted as a rational position.

  50. The most common argument I’ve heard is that the fetus cannot think, reason or comprehend its existance in any meaningful way, and therefore is not entitled to protection. This position is bogus, of course, because there are plenty of other examples of human beings who are in the exact same position and yet are still given human rights: very young born infants, the mentally handicapped, persons in a coma recieving medical care, etc. Justifying the termination of a fetus based on mental condition is inconsistant with the protection of the lives of other humans with the same mental condition. Why is the fetus not allowed the same protection as the others?

    The next argument is that the mother, as a human being, has natural rights which she can use to defend against unwanted “invasion” of her body. This is also bogus, as, whether one considers the fetus consious or not, in the case of human pregnancy, it is a human fetus, a human organism, and so, to be consistant with the idea of natural human rights, must be entitled to the same rights as any other human, reguardless of its age or state of development. The mother may have natural human rights, but so does a human fetus. What then justifies the initiation of force against a human organism which is not guilty of any injustice?

    If libertarianism is going to base itself on the existance of natural human rights (at least, this is what I am most familiar with anyway), then the equal and natural rights of the fetus cannot be escaped. Libertarianism is a philosophy that stands opposed to the initiation of coersion and force against the innocent, even if this is inconvienient for other parties involved. This basic principle makes libertarianism naturally pro-life.

  51. steve(fetus) is driving home one night, and is rammed by a drunk(mother) who ran a red light. Steve is brought to the hospital, where the doctors discover than his kidneys are wrecked, and only a transplant can save him. The only appropriate donor is the guy who hit him. The guy refuses to give steve his kidney.

    Does steve have a legal right to force the other driver to use his organs to keep him alive? Does the other driver lose his right to bodily integrety because of steve’s need – a need that was brought on by the other driver’s behavior?

  52. “We are all moralists at heart.”

    What ideological movement isn’t? The problem – of course – lies in defining “morality.”

  53. “Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to this situation….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…”

    Rothbard’s shoddy reasoning is really an abdication of personal responsibility. The life of that unborn baby, which a mother and assumes repsonsibility for when she voluntarily decides to get pregnant, should not depend on the whims of the mother. And the baby doesn’t magically become a parasite or invader just because she’s changed her mind.

  54. I have no stance on abortion because the issue is so complicated and controversial. But here are the issues that I see in need of untangling:

    1) When does life “begin”, or when does the fetus at least assume some level of human rights, or attain some level of human dignity, or whatever other phrase you want to use to describe the stage where the fetus’s well-being actually matters?

    2) Does consensual sex by adults involve an implicit willingness to take responsibility for whatever children might result? If not, then even the most human fetus in the world is arguably a parasite that can be terminated without consequence. However, if there is some implicit assumption of responsibility then the parasite argument is undermined.

    3) (Here’s the question that would get a lot of people most upset) What rights does the father have? I’m not about to suggest that a man should be able to force a woman to go through pregnancy and then abandon her and the child, but if the man has some rights and responsibilities in regard to the child then he’s not a completely irrelevant factor either.

    Now, everybody can get all angry as they defend their own stance on these 3 rather thorny questions. The fact that they are so thorny, and the fact that people everywhere (not just on this forum) get so angry over them, is the reason that I have no stance on abortion.

    Well, actually, that isn’t quite true. I’m all about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One side has the life issue down, and that’s good because life is important. The other side has the liberty issue down (pro-choice) and that’s good because liberty is important. But both sides get so angry over this issue that they’ve tossed the pursuit of happiness out the window, so I remain an agnostic until one side or the other corners the market on the pursuit of happiness.

  55. If Ben is surprised that Murray Rothbard would make a shoddy argument, he’s got a lot more Rothbard to read.

  56. Both Andy D and Ben hit it on the head. Murray Rothbard is ignoring the “Special Responsibility” argument.

    Nothing is analgonous to the responsibility a mother has to her fetus because there is no other situation in which one person is responsible for the very creation of another person. Analogies to “invaders” or, in more famous examples, violinists or burglars, hence, don’t stand up.

  57. Eric,

    A fetus is a parasite when a mother chooses such.


    (1) It doesn’t matter.

    (2) No.

    (3) None.

  58. Eric,

    BTW, having an abortion is taking responsibility; what you don’t like is the outcome. Indeed, abortion in many cases is the most responsible act possible (weighing the factors).

  59. How, exactly, to pro-lifers plan on saving the life of an unwanted, unborn child? Are they willing to put a gun to the head of an expectant mother and force her to give birth?

    What should the punishment be for abortion? Death penalty to the doctor? How about the non-mother?

    Since most women know they’re pregnant before any visible signs, how is law enforcement going to protect a fetus in the first 4-6 months?

    For an anti-abortion law to be effective, we would need to constantly monitor every women old enough to have children. Every miscarriage would have to be thoroughly investigated.

    And of course, law enforcement would have yet another black market to deal with.

    Sorry, fetus, but making sure you get born would make the world an unpleasent place to get born into.

    And, like prohibitions against drugs, prostitution, etc., those efforts will fail anyway.

    How about instead of spending gazillions of dollars to fail at protecting the unborn, we let science and the market take their natural course and develop ever more reliable means of birth control?

  60. titus,

    Science and the market deal with a social issue? Remember, we are dealing with religionists.

    ~Every sperm is sacred….~

  61. Thorny they are, thoreau. Also irrelevant.

    “1) When does life “begin”, or when does the fetus at least assume some level of human rights, or attain some level of human dignity, or whatever other phrase you want to use to describe the stage where the fetus’s well-being actually matters?” steve the accident victim in unquestionably a living person, with moral standing in our society. He still doesn’t get to take the other driver’s organs by force.

    “2) Does consensual sex by adults involve an implicit willingness to take responsibility for whatever children might result? If not, then even the most human fetus in the world is arguably a parasite that can be terminated without consequence. However, if there is some implicit assumption of responsibility then the parasite argument is undermined.” The other driver is obvously responsible for hitting steve. If steve croaks, the other driver gets vehicular manslaughter charges – he is responsible for steve’s life. He still isn’t legally compelled to donate his kidney to keeping poor, innocent victim steve alive.

  62. Thoreau:

    At some time I remember hearing a bio-ethics professional talk about the beginning and end of human Life has, among other parameters, a component of “independent metabolic function” or something to that nature. It is of course not the only parameter, but as I recall, it is an important One.

    Does anybody know much about this, the “independent metabolic functioning”? This Fellow also noted why he felt it was ethical for Brain Dead Persons to be unplugged. For his work, these were the “medical definitions” of Life. Is this familiar to Anybody out there?

    When in doubt, remember you all that PJ O’Rourke has some good comments about aborted Foetuses: They are Worry-Free, for they require less Quality Time than do babies.


  63. jean bart:

    I know – I grew up in an anti-abortion activist family.

    I say fine – call the fetus a person if you want. I mean, really, how can one debate the issue, when the definition of “person” is up for grabs?

    What do the sacred sperm folks plan on doing about it, that’s what I’d like to know.

  64. JB: Huh, what? Pardon me for daring to question whether someone’s self-proclaimed right might just possibly trample on the rights of another. Stalking horse, my ass; the personhood question unequivocally protects the right to an early term abortion, and unless you agree with “magical moment of birth” Dan on late term abortions, I can’t see how its a problem from that end.

  65. Re: Joe, I respectfully suggest that attempting to answer the grand questions framed our legal and political systems. It seems imprudent to me to focus on the practical issues without any discussion of the broader philosophical issues, unanswerable as they may be.

    Re: “Crimethink,” the idea of the equality of man did not spring from the forehead of Zeus. It emerged from a long history of philosophy (I would call it more recycled than revolutionary). You can argue it was an “extreme” idea. It is provably true that it has been extremely difficult to achieve the goals of “Libert?, Egalit?, Fraternit?.”

    I also disagree with your logic. You seem to imply that a principle is only valid in every instance no matter how extreme. I favor the virtue of honesty, but I do not think the principle of truth invalid if I find a circumstance where a lie is fully justified.

    It seems to me some libertarians have found rules of the human universe on par with the physical laws of science. Perhaps this is why some treat dissenters with scorn normally reserved for a “Flat Earth” society. Otherwise useful libertarian ideas (like the contract) have limitations as shown on this abortion thread. This does not mean the general principle is invalid (throwing out the baby with the bathwater so to speak).

    I wish more libertarians shared your pragmatic streak. Personally, I think the libertarians ideals have moved forward in American politics in a rather interesting way… through celebrity candidates like Ventura and Schwarzenegger (sp?). It would be refreshing to see a viable candidate advance based on idea rather than on pop culture fame. I think doubt and humility, as shown by a few posters on this thread, is a step towards a viable candidate.

  66. “We may hope that X and Y can be moved closer to the true value, wherever it is…”

    The “true value” is different in each case. Gestation proceeds at slightly different rates for different people; viability is more strongly influenced by whether a baby is a single or part of a multiple pregnancy than it is by a week or so one way or the other. Date of conception is still a hit-or-miss guess if there’s been more than one opportunity around the estimated day based on fetal development.

    What good will a statutory “true value” do you anyway?

  67. ****Warning, long post. Skip if you bore easily!****
    “Responsibilities can only flow from a mutual agreement.”

    I realize this has already been viciously debunked, but I cannot resist jumping on the pile.

    Clearly, then, someone picking up a moving lawnmower by the blades is not responsible for cutting off his own hand, as he cannot have a mutual agreement with the mower.

    Clearly, anyone who burns his on crotch with hot coffee has no responsibility for the scald-marks, for he made no contract with the hot liquid.

    And, of course, players of Russian Roulette have no responsibility in plastering their brains on a wall, for they were in agreement with neither the revolver nor the ammunition.

    Whatever the stance on the abortion debate a person might have, I can think of no logically constructed argument can deny a woman?s responsibility for becoming pregnant after consensual sex (and, yes, the co-copulating man has a similar responsibility here, too; but since the baby doesn?t live in him and he currently has no say in the abortion debate, well, he?s not horribly relevant). And, frankly, I think this issue of responsibility is one of the cornerstones for understanding the abortion issue, if not actually solving it.

    Even if pregnancy is unwanted, and even if those engaged in consensual sex use birth control, sexual partners are engaging in behaviors that are inherently capable of producing a viable zygote. To go back to the comparison with Russian Roulette, think of sex with a condom and the Pill as a version of the game, just replace a 6 shooter with one loaded chamber to a 1,000,000 shooter with one loaded chamber. Sure, both Russian Roulette and protected sex are exciting, but both can have unintended consequences (the human brain’s exposure to the atmosphere in the former case, and a first hand education in reproductive biology in the latter). Hence, pregnancy is a possible consequence of any form of conceptual sex among fertile couples, regardless of barriers in place to prevent conception.

    We are all (assuming sanity and intelligence and age allowing for the capacity to reason) responsible for the results of our consensual actions, whether we intend them or no. This includes getting pregnant from consensual sex, even if the newly occupying zygote was unintended or is inconvenient.

    Now, whether or not laws should be constructed to allow folks to escape the consequential perils of their consensual acts seems to be the crux of the issue. But, since I have little sympathy for folks who cut off their hands by picking up lawnmowers, people who gripe after spilling hot coffee in their crotches while driving, and folks who play Russian Roulette and, well, lose (especially if they play with semi-automatic pistols), I find it hard to figure out why I should buy into the statement, “I shouldn’t be responsible for this baby, because I didn’t want to get pregnant,” or any similar construction. Who cares if you should be responsible, because you are responsible! Again, the question is whether they should be allowed, by law or custom, a means of escaping that responsibility.

    Oh, and this responsibility thing is more or less a fundamental debunking of one of the more irrational analogies I?ve seen on this board: the ?human has no right to live in another human,? thing. Cripes, it makes the entire thing sound like some sort of fetal squatters rights issue. You like analogies? Here ya go: sure, no human being has a right to live inside another, unless of course a woman and her partner do the biological equivalent of putting up a ?Vacancy? sign on the ?Ch?teau de Uterus Bed and Breakfast? and giving offers for 9 months of free room and board to random indigents. Come ON! This isn?t what the abortion issue is about!

    The abortion issue is fundamentally about what pregnant women are allowed, by law or by custom, to do get out of the responsibility they have in creating a life with a man.
    I know this sounds ?bad? or ?mean,? but it?s honest. But, it gets tougher than that: there is jeopardy to another life, be it human or no, which is dependent on that responsibility which is to be abandoned. Responsibilities exist, whether or not we live up to them. Abortion is a consensual decision to ditch responsibility for the zygote, or fetus, or infant. The abortion debate is whether or not the government and society have an interest in demanding new responsibilities on the woman after thee commission of an abortion, aside from any feelings of guilt or remorse, which she might impose on herself.

  68. I’m not looking for a single statutory true value, as such, although that’s more or less what we have now (ie Roe v Wade). The point I’m trying to make is that, from a philosophical standpoint, that there is a point at which a fetus becomes a human, that that point is between conception and birth, and is also probably neither. I think that’s pretty reasonable.

    The reason for making that point is that the entire debate is framed wrongly. The question is not “abortion is wrong” or “my body, my choice”. Abortion may be wrong in some vague moral sense, but its not a legal matter unless it involves a second person. And, yeah, your choice is fine, but not when you choose to kill another. So, it seems that the best start is to bracket the gray area as best we can, so to speak, and then worry about what to do about the gray area.

    The reason abortion is such a troubling issue for society, libertarians in general, and for me in particular, I think, is that the same rules basically apply as for everything else, it’s just that the definitions are fuzzy. Mainly, whether there is another “person” whose rights need consideration.

  69. Per my prior post, when, exactly, a fetus becomes human is a red herring to me in regards to whether or not elective abortions are ethical. The procedure, assuming it’s elective, is clearly unethical to me.

    But, just because something isn’t ethical doesn’t mean it should be prohibited. As a Christian, I believe that adultery is unethical. I also think that selling recreational drugs and patronizing prostitutes is unethical. But as a Libertarian, I don’t think that those things should be prohibited.

  70. Ken, as a Libertarian, what things should be prohibited?

  71. Ken, now THAT I can agree with.

  72. Jean Bart,

    “Which all merely a ruse to take away the right to an abortion; “viability” is a stalking horse for abolition to the right to an abortion.”

    The concept has certainly been used as such, no question. But that doesn’t mean that it is improper or useless in its own right.

  73. Committing adultery, using drugs or paying for sex are often called “victimless crimes.” No person’s rights are violated insofar as these acts involve consenting adults. Abortion is only a victimless crime insofar as the fetus has no human rights. While some dismiss the question out of hand, some of us are genuinely interested in the question of when (and how) a person becomes entitled to the fundamental right of life. If (with the exception of Dan) we agree that an infant child possess fundamental human rights, as a civil society, the killing of that child cannot be considered a “victimless crime.”

    I was thinking about conjoined twins. Let’s say a pair of conjoined twins cannot be separated except by the death of the other. How would we react to a request by one twin to have a doctor kill the other? I suspect most would argue each twin has a legitimate right to live and the desires of one does not supercede the rights of the other. What creates the opportunity for legal abortion is the determination that the fetus is not a person and thus has no rights.

    I do not presuppose to have any answer, but I think this is a debate important enough to take seriously.

  74. Just so I know what you’re saying here: It seems to me that you’re saying that a person becomes a person at the exact moment of birth

    Actually, no; I think a baby becomes a person when its conscious mind develops, which happens during the year or so following its birth. Prior to that, we aren’t human in any sense I consider meaningful.

    However, since there’s no objective measure (yet, anyway) for exactly when that happens, I think “birth” is a good time to draw the line, just to err on the side of caution.

  75. Putting a newborn up for adoption is fine. In fact, that may be the best thing for the child. Dumping a child in the trash can is not.

    Then you accept that parents have no moral responsibility to support their children; you’re just arguing that they can’t choose to make it difficult or impossible for other people to support those children. I think that is true, *if* the original mother has consented to be the child’s provider in the first place.

    But if the only reason the mother is a mother in the first place is that the state grossly violated her rights by forcing her to grow an unwanted parasite in her body, then she has no moral or ethical responsibility to the child at all, and what is “best for it” is irrelevant to her moral calculations.

  76. someone picking up a moving lawnmower by the blades is not responsible for cutting off his own hand […] anyone who burns his on crotch with hot coffee has no responsibility for the scald-marks […] players of Russian Roulette have no responsibility in plastering their brains on a wall

    You’re talking about “responsibility for”, as in, “the cause of”. We were discussing “responsibility to”, as in “obligations towards”. Obviously you don’t have to have a contract in order to be the cause of something — you just have to have a contract in order to have obligations towards someone.

    A man and a woman whose sex act results in a pregnancy are, obviously, “responsible for” the creation of the fetus. What they aren’t, is “responsible to” it. They have no agreement with the fetus, nor do they have any obligations to it.

    Actually, the point was raised (and it’s a valid one) that you can have obligations to someone if you’ve harmed them; you have an obligation to make good on the harm. But of course that could only apply here if the act of giving life to a fetus qualifies as “harm” — in which case abortion would be the proper “make good” anyway.

  77. Jose,

    I’m taking the abortion debate seriously, but I’m not taking the debate about when a fetus becomes a person seriously. Please see my prior posts.


    Murder, Theft, Battery, Rape, etc. are all unethical behaviors that, as a Libertarian, I think should be prohibited. Are you going to suggest that abortion is murder?

    I am willing to allow police officers to arrest and interogate people under certain circumstances, but I’m not willing to suffer the kinds of freedomm quelching measures that would be required to prevent and solve all murders? What does the enforecement of an abortion ban look like? Is it worth enforcing a ban under those circumstances?

    These are the kinds of questions that interest me about the abortion debate. Not whether or not it’s ethical (it isn’t) or when, precisely, a fetus becomes human (it’s at conception).

  78. Ken, I haven’t the desire or probably the qualifications to debate whether abortion is ethical. What I assumed we were talking about was whether abortion should be legal. To be perfectly Milesian, the only reason one person’s actions should be proscribed, is if they cause harm to others. So, with abortion, is there harm to others? Absolutely, if the fetus is a person, and hence “other”. Absolutely not if the fetus is not a person, and hence, for all intents and purposes, part of the woman’s body.

    If you believe that human life begins at conception, how can you not be opposed to abortion in the same way that (I presume) you are opposed to murder?

    It seems to me that you’re saying prohibition of abortion would be really, really difficult, and therefore we shouldn’t bother. If that is what you mean, then I’d say that we need to decide whether this is an actual obligation of the state or not, and then worry about the practical aspects.

  79. Method,

    Should medical professionals be given a legal exception, permitting them to give abortions to children without a parent’s consent or knowledge?


    Little known fact(at least this is the way it was when I worked in a hospital several years ago): every female of child bearing years is given a pregnancy test prior to anesthization. What happens if the test comes back positive, and the patient is on Medicare or Medi-Cal? I have to pay for a procedure I find morally abhorrent. Is that right?


    Neither question has anything to do with determining the exact stage at which a fetus becomes human.

    In regards to how I can question the outright ban of an unethical procedure, let’s suppose, as I did in a post far above, that the government starts enforcing a complete ban of elective abortions. What does that do to the unwanted children of crack-whores? Is the government going to start throwing crack-whores into a special maternity prison to ensure that pregnant women don’t smoke crack? Maybe a less draconian measure would be to have the government require such addicts to submit regular blood tests so long as they’re pregnant, that way we won’t have to imprison them until they fail a drug test.

    The point here is that there is a limit to the amount of government interference I’m willing to suffer in order to enforce a ban on abortion, just like there’s a limit to the amount of government interference I’m willing to suffer in order to enforce a ban on murder.

    But many of the Pro-Life people I’ve talked to haven’t put much thought into how to enforce an abortion ban without backhanding our civil rights. I find the procedure entirely heinous, and, because of that, I would like to see more discussion about how we can make a ban work. In the meantime, can’t we do something about elective abortions being funded with tax payer money, and medical professionals giving abortions to children without parental knowledge?

    P.S. By the way, my Libertarianism is rooted in my Christianity. I believe in an omnipotent God who tolerates all sorts of horrific behaviour on this planet. If he restrains himself from enforcing his will on this earth (and I beleive that’s exactly what he does), how dare I enforce my own views on others?

  80. Dan,

    >an unwanted parasite

    Your arguments are reminiscent of the shallow “My body is not an incubator” protestations I used to hear from college feminists.

    I think I keep looking for a deeper introspection in the pro-choice argument, a willingness to examine the complexities of the issue and the unique circumstances of the fetus/baby/whatever, but I finally have to admit to myself I just ain’t gonna get it. It chills me to think people actually equate a fetus with, say, a tapeworm. I’d hate to know your thoughts on retarded children.

    This discussion has been enlightening. Congratulations, Dan — you and JB have just pushed me two feet closer to the pro-life crowd. Bush in 2004!

  81. Dan, just pack it in. First you say that there can’t be a duty of a mother to an unborn child because the latter is not capable of forming a contract with the former. This is an entirely untenable position, or at least I thought it was because it had the effect of condoning infanticide, but then you apparently try to justify it by suggesting that even after a baby is born, it isn’t really a human being. BTW, even this doesn?t work, because you original argument was about forming contracts and I can promise you that children well beyond 1 year of age are still incapable of forming real contracts with adults (or, if ?formed,? they demonstrate a remarkable ability to redefine them on whim, particularly if bubble gum or permanent markers are involved).

    All I can say is, if my wife and I ever have another child, I’ll keep all people named Dan away from him or her for several years just to be on the safe side.

  82. thoreau, people on this board call fellow human beings in need “parasites” all the time, and express the opinion that they have no right to expect others assistance. And that’s just when the “harm” they do is to cost you a few bucks.

    crimethink, your takedown of my car accident analogy doesn’t hold up, because you get the question of active vs. passive wrong. Gestating a fetus is not “leaving it alone.” It is a very active process that imposes pain, discomfort, inconvenience, disability, and threats to health and even life on the mother. The active verb “carry” is used for a reason. The homeless man isn’t just lying in the boat – he’s making you steer, fix him a sandwich, and balance a 20 pound weight on your shoulders. He’s not going to let you leave the boat for several months, and oh, he might well kill you or make you sick.

    Anyway, I think this is a more worthwhile line of thinking than arguing when ensoulment occurs (whatever modern language you use to dress it up). While I find the moral case for maternal responsibility very compelling, it doesn’t hold up in the realm of law or politics.

  83. Can anyone read this thread and have any doubt why libertarians scare “the bejesus” out of many voters? (I’m not entirely sure what “the bejesus” is or how it is frightened out of one, but the phrase seems appropriate.)

    I find no interest in continuing to dismantle Dan’s theory that obligation can only exist within the bounds of a contract (or when harm occurs). I do share John Hood’s general sense of nervousness about Dan near an occupied cradle. I also have the odd image of Dan seeing an infant lying unattended along the road and simply driving by. I think of it as the parable of the contractual Samaritan.

  84. joe,

    You’re really stretching the definition of ‘active’ here. Gestating a fetus, while it surely imposes burdens on the mother, is no more an action by her than producing red blood cells or digesting food. The process is done automatically by her body.

    True, my boat analogy doesn’t exactly match the abortion situation, but I think it’s off only by degree. You do have to return to the shore, even if you’re in the middle of the ocean, and let him off your boat; no matter how inconvenient it is for you or what burdens it implies, you can’t legally throw him overboard. Of course, if he tried to kill you, you would have the right to defend yourself, just as I believe abortion should be a sad option if pregnancy directly threatens the mother’s life.

    But I think that this analogy shows that there are situations where one is obligated to preserve the life of another no matter what inconvenience this entails.

  85. Also, I think the “ensoulment”, or to use a more secular term, “personhood” debate is also important — if we’re not talking about a person, there is no way that someone can be obligated to keep it alive.

    The debate about when one person has an obligation to another only arises when pro-choice people respond with the argument that even if the fetus is a person, the pregnant woman does not have to preserve his/her life.

  86. Jose Ortega y Gasset,

    No doubt, the Declaration of Independence scared the bejesus out of a lot of people. So did the Constitution and Bill of Rights, for that matter. Just because an idea seems scary doesn’t mean it ain’t the truth. (Though in this case I disagree with Dan.)

    The main reason Americans are scared of libertarians is because as much as we complain, we’re comfortable with the status quo. Libertarianism is a serious departure from that, and it also requires thinking, another unpopular activity in postmodern America.

  87. I don’t see any of my fellow pro-choice advocates admitting that abortion is bad, wrong, immoral, tragic, shameful, and emotionally and biochemically damaging. I do admit it.

    But, you know what? Unwanted pregnancies are ALL of the above, PLUS up to nine months of anything from inconvenience to death for the mother, PLUS up to eighteen years of potential hostility between and lowered quality of life for the unwilling mother and unwanted child(ren), whether they are together or apart.

    Safe, legal, available abortions mean that few pregnant women will decide to commit suicide because they can’t live with the complex and difficult consequences of a momentary indulgence (let alone an act of sexual abuse). One plus one equals two deaths here.

    Say what you will, the life of a living, functioning human is generally (there are exceptions) worth more than the life of a passive human larva. That doesn’t mean murder is acceptable, and it doesn’t mean abortion is moral. But it does mean that we have an additional rule to apply when dealing with the medical and emotional triage issue of whether or not a given abortion is justified in a particular case.

    Full disclosure: I am a birth mother who chose to undergo a full term pregnancy and give my daughter up for abortion. This was made possible for me by the charity and goodwill of kind strangers, and I’m grateful for that. But I can’t speak for women whose situations are not like mine. And I can’t advocate laws that limit their right to hold a moral position on this issue and act the best way they know how.

  88. speedwell,

    If the life of the mother is directly endangered by pregnacy — keep in mind, this is a very, very, very, very, very rare situation nowadays — abortion should be a legal option. And no, I wouldn’t think potential suicide could be considered a threat to life, because (a) that excuse is notoriously open to abuse, and (b) some type of psychiatric counseling will probably solve the problem.

    However, those exceptional circumstances (along with cases of pregnancy by rape and incest, also very rare) do not justify abortion in the 99.7% of pregnancies which are not life-threatening and were the result of consensual sex.

  89. Crimethink: Do you say so? Then, you’d better be willing and able to back up your public morality policy by bearing the expense of all the lives ruined by the consequences of the statutes you want to pass, as well of the potentially deadly human costs of trying to obtain an abortion in the various desperate ways that would be left after you drive it underground.

  90. speedwell,

    Human rights are my concern, not public morality.

    If consenting adults want to screw their brains out, the law shouldn’t forbid them from doing so, as long as it’s not on my property. But the law should forbid killing innocent people.

  91. I must respectfully disagree, “crimethink.” Dan provides an apt example of why libertarians frighten many… in this case, those with infant children. Americans agree with many modest libertarian notions. Libertarians, however, have trouble with the concept of modesty (entendres intended). Most Americans support a woman’s right to abortion. The vast majority would be horrified by Dan’s views. This is not to say Dan represents the prevailing libertarian view; rather, Dan exemplifies the libertarian impulse to favor philosophical purity over pragmatics compromises.

    For example, Americans generally favor decriminalizing marijuana. Have a drug debate, however, and I will find some libertarian favoring the free market sale of crack cocaine in school vending machines. Of course, libertarians also follow the tone of your post. The reason the body politic opposes the sale of crack at elementary schools is that “people” are a drooling flock of mindless sheep. This may score points on a Reason forum, but it will never win an election… and the last time I checked, it is the people who win elections who make public policy.

    I find surprising that a group so intelligent (in general) as libertarians, find it so difficult to understand and master the art of electoral politics. It is like the savants who have extraordinary mathematical abilities but have no social skills. Libertarians find it more important to be “right” than to influence social change, a tendency that dooms them to the political fringe. I am heartened, however, to see some libertarians wrestling with the thorny issue of abortion and even showing (gasp!) some evidence of moral doubts. Perhaps a few will descend from the intellectual Olympus of libertarian thought and make a viable candidate some day.

  92. Re: adoption, again: Then you accept that parents have no moral responsibility to support their children…

    Dan, no. And one more time just to make this clear. A parent does have a moral (and legal) responsibility to their child. Putting the child up for adoption is one legitimate means of fulfilling that responsibility. Killing the child is not.

    joe: For why ensoulment is important no matter your personal stance, see my response to JB. If that event occurs some time after conception, then no one should have any legal objection to abortions that occur before that event, in which case that part of the argument is settled, and we only have to decide whether to prohibit abortions after that point. Whether we have any shot at all of determining when the event occurs is, of course, a valid point.

    Jose: The reason a lot of ideologies are scary to those who don’t hold them or understand them is the result of the statements and actions of those who do hold them, but don’t understand them. To attempt to apply a contract requirement to someone who can’t legally or even physically be a party to such a contract (on the grounds that they are either a minor, or, say, don’t yet exist) is… out there, to say the least.

  93. Look, people, it would be a better world if there were no abortions at all. But we have the medical technology (hell, even I know how to perform a simple one), and we have people having sex who are not able to deal with the consequences (trust me, I know this one by heart), and we have fewer people willing to put their “pro-life” money where their “pro-life” mouths are than we have problem pregnancies for which an abortion is an available conclusion.

    The “pro-life” people on this board, just like most of their fellows wherever this issue is debated, are a bunch of D&D wizards who hope to wave a hand holding a piece of legal parchment and make the bad dream go away. Wake up, people. It doesn’t work like that in the real world.

    We should reserve “pro-life” for people who advocate the rights of the living over the rights of the “potentially-viable-someday.”

  94. “I don’t see any of my fellow pro-choice advocates admitting that abortion is bad, wrong, immoral, tragic, shameful, and emotionally and biochemically damaging. I do admit it.”

    “While I find the moral case for maternal responsibility very compelling, it doesn’t hold up in the realm of law or politics.”

    You have my respect for making the right choice, speedwell. It couldn’t have been easy.

    method, while the answer to the ensoulment question would be very helpful, it is unanswerable. That’s why it’s a waste of time to talk about it.

  95. I am delighted, Joe, that my namesake and the long line philosophers did not agree with you. The discussion of “unanswerable” questions is the very soul of philosophy (and not just metaphysics). I think as a thinking species we have benefited greatly from the grand endeavor. It seems appropriate to quote Franklin, “What good is a newborn baby?”

  96. Senor Ortega y Gasset… you reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from one of the novels of the great Dorothy Dunnett… “Forbye, a bairn’s a bairn…wet at baith ends an’ no’ verra smert i’ the middle.” (Not sure I got the Scots exactly right as I’m typing from memory!)

    Meant in fun. 🙂

  97. joe: Well, we’ve drifted considerably. The question was posed by thoreau and then dismissed out-of-hand by JB as unimportant which is what I was originally responding to. But the fact that we can’t answer the question definitely doesn’t make it totally irrelevant. If we can at least say something along the lines of “before a fetus reaches X stage, we can be pretty sure it’s not a person” and “after a fetus reaches Y stage, we can be pretty sure it is”, then we’ve just made useful progress. So abortions before stage X are nobody’s business, and abortions after stage Y are tantamount to infanticide. The ones in the middle are the subject of debate. And to my mind, that’s the point we’re at now.

  98. A thousands pardons if you read my remarks as somehow disparaging the noble art of navel gazing, Jose! Discussing unanswerables is an effort with tremendous worth. If it were not, I’d be a lot further along on my zoning project.

    But it doesn’t do you a whole lot of good in answering legal, Constitutional, and political questions. That was my point.

  99. speedwell,

    Bear in mind that you don’t know me or any of the other pro-life people here. I don’t expect the problem to go away “if only there was a law,” just like murder, rape, etc still happen despite being illegal. In fact, I do what I can both financially and socially to encourage and support pregnant women who, like you, choose against abortion.

    Bear in mind that you don’t know me or any of the other pro-life people here. It’s as unfair to characterize any of us as “D&D wizards” as it would be for me to paint you as a baby-hater.

  100. speedwell,

    Bear in mind that you don’t know me or any of the other pro-life people here. I don’t expect the problem to go away “if only there was a law,” just like murder, rape, etc still happen despite being illegal. In fact, I do what I can both financially and socially to encourage and support pregnant women who, like you, choose against abortion.

    Bear in mind that you don’t know me or any of the other pro-life people here. It’s as unfair to characterize any of us as “D&D wizards” as it would be for me to paint you as a baby-hater.

  101. Jose,

    I don’t see a problem with taking your principles to extremes, if that’s where they take you. “All men are created equal” would have been considered extreme for most of human history, but it’s one of the core foundations of our country.

    Of course, if you follow your principles to their conclusions, and they turn out to be horrific, perhaps you should reexamine your principles. But if you just say, “I don’t like that extreme, but the principle’s OK,” you’ve just sacrificed intellectual honesty. Otherwise, you’re like Jefferson, who formulated the principle stated above but refused to accept the consequence that his slaves were created equal to him.

    Also, if I were at a conference, or even in a private conversation, talking about some issue with libertarian implications, yeah, I’d tread gently. If someone was talking about privatizing the post office, I wouldn’t start harping about why the government controls all the roads. Just because someone is principled doesn’t mean he’s not pragmatic.

    However, I don’t see any evidence that the majority of people in this country really want to be bothered with any but the broadest issues in politics. That’s not a tone, that’s just a fact. We’re well fed, we’re entertained — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, seems to be the attitude that the great many people have, from my observation.

  102. method, “So abortions before stage X are nobody’s business, and abortions after stage Y are tantamount to infanticide. The ones in the middle are the subject of debate. And to my mind, that’s the point we’re at now.” But there can never be a trustworthy answer to the question about the middle, while the question about the early and late stages is already answered. So I still don’t think competing guesses about exactly when is a useful line of inquiry.

  103. Jade Monk,

    “Sorry if this comes out too much like an ad hominem attack, but…”

    Well it is; and a rather pointless one.

    “…with liberals.”

    I’m not an liberal; at least not the variety that exists today; but thanks for the attempt to “smear” me.

    “Tell me, Jean Bart — did you come to this country after the fall of the wall put you and the rest of the Stasi out of work?”

    The Stasi were German; I’m French. And I have never worked for a German or Russian intelligence service or one allied to those services. Again, thanks for the attempt to smear me. You really do knock down whatever edifice of reason you might have enjoyed.

  104. Jade Monk,

    BTW, it is interesting to note that instead of asking for clarification, you descend into psycho-babble and personal assaults. Are you Andrew?

  105. joe, There are plenty of people (total pro-lifers) who don’t agree that the early question is settled, and apparently even some people (Dan) who don’t believe that the late question is settled. The important thing is to define the question, and not just reduce it all to pro- or anti-abortion with no other options. With time, we can probably reduce the size of the middle portion, which would always be an improvement. And the important thing about the question is not to wish we could have a total answer, or argue about what the total answer is without any evidence.

    That is, to see to what extent the question can be answered and apply that information, to continue to attempt to answer it, and then to recognize what the extent of the area is that isn’t settled, and recognize that another theory is needed to cover the area that can’t be answered with that question.

    In other words, we know that the point is sometime between X and Y. So as reasonable people, we presumably value individual choice except when it threatens the life of another, so for us the periods outside X and Y are settled. We may hope that X and Y can be moved closer to the true value, wherever it is, but in the meantime we turn to other theories for the period between X and Y.

    I never said this was the only question to be answered, just that it was the first. Once it is established as best we can, then we move on.

  106. method,

    Which all merely a ruse to take away the right to an abortion; “viability” is a stalking horse for abolition to the right to an abortion.

  107. Wow, lots going on here.

    First, as to joe’s analogy way back when, it is flawed, not only because the drunk driver would be punished, in effect, for letting his victim die, but also because if you leave both him and his victim alone, he keeps his kidneys and the victim dies.

    Whereas, in the abortion situation, if you leave the pregnant woman and fetus alone, the fetus will in all likelihood develop and be born. This is an important distinction — in one case, the question is can you force one to do something to save another’s life, while in the other, it’s can you force one not to do something resulting in the death of another.

    Perhaps a better analogy:

    A homeless man finds shelter in a boat tied to a dock, and sleeps in it overnight. Before he wakes, the owner unties it and sets sail into deep waters, unaware that he has a stowaway. Can the owner legally toss the guy overboard and let him drown once he finds him? I’m pretty sure that would be considered murder, despite the fact that (a) the stowaway certainly is a “parasite” on the boat, (b) the owner is not directly killing him, just removing him from the boat he needs to survive, and (c) chances are, no one would ever know and no scar would be left on society.

  108. Jean Bart,


    A fetus is a parasite when a mother chooses such.


    (1) It doesn’t matter.

    (2) No.

    (3) None.

    So which version of the Pro-Choice Bible do you use?

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