Discuss Libertarian Perspectives on Abortion: Tuesday, May 21, 2pm-3pm ET


As a political philosophy, libertarianism stresses concepts such as self-ownership, voluntary consent, and non-agression. In many areas of human activity, the application of such ideas seems relatively straightforward. In others, reaching clarity is far more difficult.

On Tuesday, May 21, from 2pm to 3pm in Washington, D.C., Reason will host a discussion tackling one of the most controversial and debated issues of the day: abortion. Among self-identified libertarians, there's a wide variety of positions, ranging from support for all forms of abortions to the prohibition of the same.

"Libertarian Perspectives on Abortion" will be moderated by Reason.com's Nick Gillespie and will feature

  • Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason magazine's managing editor
  • Mollie Hemingway, editor of Ricochet and a contributor to Christianity Today
  • Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent

The topics discussed will include

  • When does human life—and when do rights—begin?
  • What's the role of science—and religion—in setting abortion policy?
  • Is there a role for the state in prohibiting, regulating, and providing abortion?

A fast-paced 30-minute discussion will be followed by audience Q&A.

Attendance is free but due to limited seating, an RSVP is required.

This event will also be livestreamed online by Reason TV.


What: Libertarian Perspectives on Abortion: A Reason discussion.

When: Tuesday, May, 21, 2pm to 3pm.

Where: Reason's DC HQ, 1747 Connecticut Avenue NW (near S Street, Dupont Circle stop on Red Line Metro)

RSVP: events@reason.com

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  1. Mollie Hemingway, editor of Ricochet and a contributor to Christianity Today

    Golly. I wonder what her position is.

    1. You never know.

      After all, Obama is a Christian (Black Liberation Theology is a form of Christianity), and, from what I can tell, he supports abortion right up until birth.

      1. I’m not a Christian, and I support abortion right up to the 57th trimester.

      2. Biden is a Catholic, supposedly shares the Church’s position, let still doesn’t want to stop abortion (at least with politics). Anyone who thinks something is murder, and doesn’t want to prevent it if it comes to force, is untrustworthy in my book.

  2. It will be interesting if they also note that even if a fetus is a human, there is still a rights conflict- why should anyone have to support another?

    1. Your totally right parents should be able to abandon their children in a dumpster if they get tired of supporting.

      1. Shitty analogy. Parents can choose to give up a child for adoption at birth. If they do not, they have chosen to care for the child and thus the consequences follow. But, for instance, in the case of a woman who was raped, she did not choose to have a child. There is no reason she should be forced to support a parasite for 9 months.

        1. She chose to not take BC in case she happened to get raped. She should have to live with the full consequences of her choices.


          1. Second the rape exepmtion.

            1. So, how can you tell that someone has been raped?

              1. Your right we should release all rapists from jail because you can’t tell that someone was raped.

                1. Anothe strawman, wow. I never said anything like that.

                  So you’re saying there has to be a trial before an abortion? How long does that take? What about the fact that many rapists never get convicted? What kind of person subjects a rape victim to this sort of tribulation just to be able to live free of a parasite that is a product of a horrible experience?

                  1. The same kind of person who would pretend to get raped to qualify for an abortion…

            2. What about when a rapist aborts his own unborn children by force, as in the Cleveland case? Do you still charge him with aggravated murder?

            3. People who favor abortion in the case of rape and incest don’t care about the rights of the child, they just want to control women.

        2. They also chose to have sex and should be prepared for whatever comes of it.

          1. Yes, rape victims choose to have sex. This is a really important point, since it leads the anti-abortion side to either suggest that abortion (teh worst evil evar) should be allowed in this case (which makes no sense given the rest of their reasoning) or that women should be forced to carry the result of their rape to term (most of us would agree that this is a morally bankrupt position).

            1. See above.

          2. Being willing to have an abortion is one way of “prepar(ing) for whatever comes of (sex)”.

            1. You can be willing to do anything in response to anything it doesnt make it right.

              1. And who are you to decide which consequences people must “live with” and which they may mitigate?

                1. No one should have a differing opinion then you oh omnipotent one.

                  1. You are free to have an opinion differing from mine, but we have a problem when you want to impose that opinion on me.

            2. From the “Pro-Choice Public Education Projects” slogans page.

              This one surprised me.

              “Having a baby shouldn’t be punishment for a contraceptive mishap”.

        3. Presumably whatever human rights the fetus normally has don’t go away if it is the product of rape.

          1. There is always an exception to the rule.

            1. Not to the rule that human beings have a right to live (absent an imposition of the death penalty following due process).

              1. Read absent as an exception…

                1. True, but what due process is given rape fetuses?

                  1. I suppose you could have courts sign off on whether a woman is allowed to have an abortion in certain circumstances. (I don’t advocate this.)

            2. In other words, it’s okay to kill an innocent child if her father was a criminal?

              1. Yeah, the rape exception is a stupid argument. Either abortion is murder or it’s not. I could see invoking self defense in some cases, but the idea that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape is just retarded. Either it should be legal or it shouldn’t be.

          2. Nor do the rights of the woman to not have a parasite she never wanted. See what I’m saying? Even assuming that the embryo or fetus has human rights (a pretty bad assumption imo), there is still a serious rights conflict.

            1. If she didn’t want a child she didn’t have to have sex. The moment you engage in a reproductive act you shouldn’t be surprised when you end up reproducing… unless you are an idiot, I guess.

            2. Yep. But you can’t treat fetus rights differently depending on how conception happened. So it’s best to say mothers have autonomous control until a certain agreed-upon point in the pregnancy or birth.

              1. I’m not talking about fetus-rights, I’m talking about adult-rights. I have a right to not have someone drawing nutrients and oxygen from my body, if I don’t want it. Period.

                1. Then dont have sex.

                  1. Just don’t get raped, how simple. And yeah, you have your little exception for that, but I’m talking to Tony, who does not believe in such an exception. I’m saying that he is omitting the right of a human to not have something else drawing oxygen and nutrients, and dumping waste products.

                    1. I’m saying if we suppose a fetus has a right to life apart from the mother’s will, it is capricious and horrific to classify rape fetuses as undeserving of such rights, as they had no say in the method of their conception.

                      That’s why the only good solution is to not give fetuses such rights. I agree, I think women should have the right not to be forced by government to carry a child or give birth against their will.

                    2. I see what you’re saying, but honestly I think it would be tantamount to slavery to force a woman to carry a child she never wanted. I don’t see how that’s much better…

                      For the record, I don’t think that embryos and fetuses have human rights, I’m only discussing this for the sake of argument.

                    3. I’m pretty sure I’m agreeing with you 100%.

                    4. Yeah, I see that now.

                    5. Abortion isn’t just denying the fetus your nutrients (and maybe it dies on its own). That would be more like the morning after pill (or transferring to an artificial womb if they ever become viable).

                      Abortion is killing it while your body holds it hostage.

                    6. Well, would it be better for you if the umbilical cord were cut and the fetus died as a result of that?

                    7. So now you’re holding it prisoner until it starves to death? Ejecting it from your body without purposefully killing it would be the maximum extent you could claim your right to your body extends.

                    8. Ok, fine, do that then. This is really pointless, since it will result in the death of the fetus regardless of how the abortion happens. The point is to free the host of the unwanted being drawing oxygen and nutrients, and depositing waste.

                    9. Your right it is but in this case the woman hasn’t waived her right to an abortion by having consensual sex.

                    10. That’s why the only good solution is to not give fetuses such rights. I agree, I think women should have the right not to be forced by government to carry a child or give birth against their will.

                      Indeed. We should also allow a woman to kill her children after a divorce. Can you imagine the mental anguish she suffers every time she looks at her kid and it reminds her of that cheating bastard?

                    11. There is no fully satisfactory place to draw the line. Since, in a way, gestation continues well after birth in the human species, I’m not so sure the “drawing nutrients and depositing waste” argument holds. Children are still absolutely physically dependent on parents long after the umbilical cord is cut. Allowing abortion in the 1st trimester but not the “5th” is arguably arbitrary.

                    12. Allowing abortion in the 1st trimester but not the “5th” is arguably arbitrary.

                      Not quite. Up until birth the fetus is wholly dependent upon a specific person, the mother. After birth it can be wholly dependent on anyone.

                    13. Indeed, and we should dispatch the Jinyiwei to arrest and execute the raped woman’s family to nine generations.

                    14. Tony just said:

                      So it’s best to say mothers have autonomous control until a certain agreed-upon point in the pregnancy or birth.

                      You should really figure out who you should actually be arguing with.

      2. Bam! Take that straw man!

        Fuck the (grammar) police.

        1. Huh? I’m saying that Calitaxian basically used a straw man. At the very minimum, a woman should not be forced to nurture another person she never agreed to nurture. Parents, at some point, agreed to take care of their kid. Like a contract, you can’t always get out.

          1. sorry, maybe misunderstood?

          2. Yeah, my response was to Calitaxian. I think you and I are of a mind on this issue.

  3. Sounds super interesting. Wish I could attend.

  4. How completely devoted are the sorry ass democrats to the unlimited-abortion-at-all-times industry? So devoted that they can’t even offer a meaningless pro forma condemnation of Kermit Gosnell.

    1. It must not be meaningless then if you can draw such a conclusion.

      Must we have a congressional act to condemn every crime that happens? Or is the Gosnell case perhaps being used by antiabortion advocates as a means to condemn by association all abortion providers and thus make a political statement?

      1. It’s more like you and your fellow Journolists and democrats (but I repeat myself) want no part of looking into this guy and his practices.

        Or anything else that’s going on these days under this criminal administration, for that matter.

        1. Is the criminal justice system not doing its job in this matter? Why should Congress get involved?

          1. Congress oversees and investigates everything in this country now.

            I’m a supporter of gun rights, but I have no problem with unequivocally condemning the actions of Adam Lanza and those like him.

            Frankly, condemning Gosnell should be an easy no-brainer, even for worthless scumbags like you and Harry Reid.

    2. the sorry ass democrats to the unlimited-abortion-at-all-times

      We Canucks are all sorry ass democrats since 1988… and no one has noticed.

  5. There needs to be a libertarian term to describe “pro-life”. The pro-abortion crowd likes to use libertarian sounding slogans like “If you’re in this position, do you think the government should decide?” I always wonder how many of them believe this when it comes to other areas of Government intrusion.
    During the recent protests here in North Dakota I was tempted to go see how many signatures I could get on petitions to legalize all drugs and prostitution and for the repeal of all sin taxes.

    1. You’re definitely right in that it’s completely inconsistent to support “choice” in abortion but not other areas of government control. It is one of the things that irks me about most fellow pro-choicers.

      1. The one way that abortion is different is that there is a second entity involved. The fetus is a living thing that can’t defend itself. I don’t see how this is like prostitution or drugs.

        1. “The fetus is a living thing that can’t defend itself”
          I agree. That is one of the reasons the “choice” arguement annoys me. If you believe that the fetus has rights then the mothers rights are not the only ones that matter.

        2. Yeah, but they’re in similar in being choices about the body. Pro-choice people aren’t considering the fetus as a full person with rights of their own, the focus is entirely about a woman’s right to choose what goes on with herself. But they don’t necessarily care for choice about the self in other ways (food, education).

          There was that video done at the last DNC, for instance, where they asked people about being pro-choice, and then about their positions on choice in other areas. Guess what their position on choice in general was?

      2. The leftie pro-choicers are being very consistent. They want the taxpayer to provide for their every need, and to assume responsibility for all their actions. Free abortions on demand, free healthcare for everyone, government guaranteed student loans, mortgage forgiveness for all, etc., etc.

        The idea that abortion could be legal without the government paying for it would blow most pro-choicers tiny little minds.

    2. “There needs to be a libertarian term to describe “pro-life””

      Anti-outlawry. At least since King John, there was a consensus against arbitrarily depriving human beings of legal protection, which is why outlawry without due process of law was deemed unconstitutional…until they decided to legalize abortion.

      1. You’re assuming we all agree that fertilized eggs are human beings deserving legal protection.

        1. Who’s talking about fertilized eggs? The vast majority of vocal pro-choicers wants abortion to be legal right up to the moment of birth. There hasn’t been a single fertilized cell in the equation since a few seconds after conception.

          Heck, many pro-choicers are hunky dory with infanticide. The lack of outrage at Gosnell is because they see nothing wrong with what he did.

  6. Can’t we just discuss something that we can actually convince someone on? Perhaps alt-text?

    1. I think it is possible to change people’s opinions on abortion, so long as those opinions are formed via reason, rather than dogma.

    2. Yeah. Abortion always comes down to when a person believes life begins and when they believe rights begin. I have found that it is almost impossible to change these beliefs.

  7. My take on abortion, abridged version:

    Children don’t enjoy the full rights of adults, so fetuses don’t necessarily enjoy the full rights of children. Instead there is a continuum of rights beginning with egg and sperm cells, which have no rights, and ending with personally responsible adults who have full human rights.

    The only difference between a 9-month old fetus and a 1 day old baby is location, so late-term abortions are murder. After all, the mother has implicitly accepted responsibility for the fetus by allowing it to develop to a point where it could live outside her body. She may, however, induce labor, so long as reasonable methods are used to ensure the safety of the fetus.

    The earliest successful births at this point take place around 25 weeks. I think this gives us a convenient point of compromise. Abortions before this point are okay because significant resources are still required of the mother to make the fetus viable (in other words, up to this point the rights of the mother outweigh those of the fetus.) After this point, the rights of the fetus become dominant.

    1. Yeah I’m pretty much the same way on this. The issues come in on the enforcement front.

      Personally I think the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to deregulate contraceptives, deregulate adoption, and fund an X Prize for a viable artificial womb.

      1. Artificial wombs would be awesome, and it would strip the last vestige of excuse from the choicers.

        1. Agreed. Artificial wombs would take that number from ~25 weeks to ~0 weeks.

          You will still have people who say that women shouldn’t be forced to undergo an invasive/expensive surgery. But that will likely be simply a fringe viewpoint.

      2. This^
        This would make everyone except the bible thumpers happy.

        1. Why would bible-thumpers object to rescuing babies from the wombs of women who want to kill them?

          1. I meant the reducing regulation on contraceptives, and they would probably find it an ungodly/natural birth.

    2. “a continuum of rights”? Rights either exist or they don’t. That’s the whole point behind the idea of rights. A child has all the same rights as an adult. They are owed non-aggression. Making arbitrary designations like the number of weeks or trimesters or what have you doesn’t contribute to the issue at all.

      1. Rights either exist or they don’t

        True. And an egg cell has no rights, whereas a fertilized egg cell has some rights. A dog has more rights than a rock. An adult human has more rights than a dog. A really smart monkey might have more rights than a brain-dead human. That’s what I mean by continuum.

        A child has all the same rights as an adult.

        That’s not true at all. We give children additional civil rights as they age because we recognize that rights, to some extent, come from responsibilities assumed. Parents can exert a limited amount of control over their children, whereas the reverse is not true. Children do not have all the rights of an adult.

        Making arbitrary designations like the number of weeks or trimesters or what have you doesn’t contribute to the issue at all.

        Any line on abortion is going to be arbitrary. But if we are to live together under one law we need a line that a majority of people can live with.

        1. That sounds disgustingly close to a social contract.

  8. To be immediately followed by “Libertarian Perspectives on the Civil War”, to help tone down the infighting.

    1. Buckle your seat belts.

    2. This is how the Statists win, you monster!

  9. Since everyone knows that all women are for abortion, and only the men of the patriarchy want to restrict it, as confirmed by the research staff of Jezebel, it’s obvious that Katherine and Mollie will be taking the pro-abortion side in the debate while Ronald will be the lonely token anti-choicer.

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