Two Libertarians Debate Abortion
The answer isn't as straightforward as many assume.
Now abortion law is up to states. Some will ban it, while most blue states will allow it in some form.
Because libertarians want government out of our lives, people assume we are pro-choice. Some of us are. But like the rest of America, there are principled libertarians on both sides.
We freedom-lovers believe women (and men) own their bodies and should have control over what happens to them.
"Life begins from the moment conception is complete," says Kerry Baldwin, host of the Dare to Think Podcast. "Abortion is murder."
"The termination of a pregnancy is the right of any woman," counters pro-choice Avens O'Brien of Feminists for Liberty.
I say to O'Brien, "That is a form of life in the womb. You're not bothered terminating that?"
"I'm not sure I agree that it's a person with rights," she responds.
"At what point does the baby have a right to be protected by the state?" I continue. "You're saying that one minute before birth, the baby does not, and one minute after, it does?"
"Individuals have rights," she responds. "Individuals don't exist inside other people."
Baldwin counters, "Passing through the birth canal doesn't change the humanity of the fetus."
"As long as a fetus is inside a person, the person gets to determine whatever's happening to it," answers O'Brien.
Baldwin says the only time abortion should be legal is if a woman's life is in danger. Rape is not justification. Rape, she says, is "a crime against women. They need restitution for that crime," but the woman must carry the baby to term.
Baldwin is libertarian, so she usually opposes government force. I point out that abortion bans are government force.
"It is the role of civil governance to criminalize acts of violence," she replies.
I wonder how such criminalization would work.
"If abortion is illegal," I point out, "the state either has to punish the woman or doctor or both."
"This is a woman who's in crisis," says Baldwin. "It doesn't make sense to…throw her in prison."
Before Roe v. Wade, prosecuting women was rare. Sometimes doctors were prosecuted.
"The way you enforce is not through a police state," says Baldwin. "The way to get women to stop choosing abortion is to provide other options." One such option, she says, is to make adoption easier.
Easier adoption would be good, but it certainly won't persuade all women to carry babies to term.
Watching this week's abortion protests, one thing puzzles me: Why do activists always turn to politics?
Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Rihanna attacked Alabama's abortion bill. "Governor…SHAME ON YOU," said Rihanna.
Instead of shouting at politicians, activists could put their money where their mouths are.
I say to Baldwin and O'Brien, "Lady Gaga and Rihanna by themselves have enough money to fly every woman…to a state where it's legal. Why is this a government issue?"
"It would be great if celebrities spent their money on mutual aid and direct action instead of lobbying politicians," says O'Brien.
"Currently there is a meme going around," she adds. "People write, 'If anyone needs to go camping because their state does not allow camping…come camping with me. We'll never talk about your camping.'"
Why "camping" instead of "abortion"?
Because in "certain states, that would create a legal problem," explains O'Brien.
The two sides will never agree about abortion.
Personally, I think it's reasonable when states ban late-term abortion. An 8-month-old fetus sure seems like life to me.
But I'm mostly pro-choice. People should own their own bodies. If someone lives inside you, you have a right to control that life.
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