Abortion

What's the Correct Libertarian Position on Abortion? A Soho Forum Debate

Walter Block and Kerry Baldwin debate whether pregnant women should have the legal right to evict a fetus.

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While a pregnant woman should be legally required to help the fetus survive outside of her body whenever that is possible, she should retain the legal right to evict the fetus at any time during her pregnancy.

That was the resolution of a public debate hosted by the Soho Forum in New York City on December 8, 2019. It featured Walter Block arguing for the resolution and Kerry Baldwin arguing against it. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated.

It was an Oxford-style debate. That means the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground—mostly by picking up votes from the "undecided" category—is victorious. Block prevailed by convincing 13.85 percent of audience members to change their minds. Baldwin was not far behind, picking up 12.31 percent of the audience.

Block is the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a prolific author on Austrian economics and libertarian theory. He's the author of Defending the Undefendable I and II, among many other books.

Kerry Baldwin is an independent researcher and writer with a B.A. in Philosophy from Arizona State University. Her work can be found at MereLiberty.com and at the Libertarian Christian Institute.

The Soho Forum, which is sponsored by the Reason Foundation, is a monthly debate series at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village.

Produced by John Osterhoudt.
Photo credit: Brett Raney.

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  1. Listen up baby, in Libertopia the penalty for trespassing is DEATH !

    1. No, not death, just eviction.

      1. Sure, an eviction, if you want to gloss over the fact that this typical “eviction” involves tearing the evicted apart, limb by limb, and placing them on a table to make sure you have all the pieces.

        1. Jfc, what state do you live in? Remind me to never rent a place there.

          1. All fifty States allow this form of eviction, if you consider an abortion to be an eviction.

    2. >”in Libertopia the penalty for trespassing is DEATH”

      Not even trespassing. It’s the penalty for being exactly where your parents PUT YOU!

      1. New policy. We now kill all children that are not picked before day care closes.

  2. “What’s the Correct Libertarian Position on Abortion?
    Walter Block and Kerry Baldwin debate whether pregnant women should have the legal right to evict a fetus.”

    That phrasing leaves something to be desired. A fetus is not a tenant who is late on paying the rent.

    1. More like a uterine-camping hobo. I disagree with Block because adverse posession.

    2. Even if it were, would it be ethical to “evict” it knowing that “eviction” means certain death? I guess you can make an analogy to someone with a nice warm home in the arctic where it’s -50 outside and the trespasser has no arctic gear. Or maybe it’s a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a stowaway. Is it ethical to throw him overboard?

      1. Do you kill the evicted before putting them outside?

        1. How can you force them to walk the plank if you kill them first?

  3. Kerry Baldwin is one smokin’ hawt Evangelical Calvinist-anarchist.

    1. Oh, man, I have something great for this, but I don’t want to insult this nice lady just to make a great SIV joke.

      1. You’ve never made even a good joke in your life

      2. What are you, chicken?

        1. Lol. You made me chuckle, Leo. Thanks!

    2. “Kerry Baldwin is one smokin’ hawt Evangelical Calvinist-anarchist.”

      A backwater clinger 6?

  4. “Evict”? Seriously?

    Way to go exposing your bias right away! If you wanted a bit of bias in the other direction, you could have said “kill”. At least that word is technically correct.

    The current “unbiased” usage in these kinds of things is “terminate” I would think.

    1. Well, yeah, it’s biased because it’s the affirmative position in a debate, not a neutral synopsis of the issue.

      1. If “evict” means that the baby lived then there would be no debate. It’s a meaningless affirmative position.

        The only moral question is whether it’s ok to kill an unborn baby and under what conditions.

        1. The only moral question is whether it’s ok to kill an unborn baby and under what conditions.
          This.

        2. Then the negative can say exactly this. Did you actually watch the debate?

          1. No I admit I haven’t yet. I just immediately choked on that word and commented.

        3. No it’s not. Technology makes it possible to keep a fetus alive sooner and sooner in the development. Eventually, the only question will be who will pay for the incubator costs. Will it be all these pro-lifers that keep going on about how much they care for these fetuses? Will the put their money where their mouths are?

          1. So you’re saying that if there’s not enough money to care for someone then they should die. I guess that is a libertarian position.

            1. No, I am saying you should not use coercion to take someone else’s money to care for that person. You should pay for it from voluntary donations. Good people will not let others die, so force should not be necessary. Do you disagree?

              1. I totally agree with that. Now we’re getting somewhere.

                I’m just saying that from an ethical point of view, lack of money also does not justify the proactive killing of someone either.

          2. Most abortion procedures kill the baby in the process of “eviction”. Once the technology comes where it’s possible to keep babies in incubators, will the pro-choice crowd pass laws to make it possible to do this?

            Considering that many pro-choice people are in favor of partial-birth abortion — a procedure done on babies who *are* viable — I have a funny feeling that the answer will be “no”.

            As for people willing to adopt such children, I know people who have spent thousands of dollars just to adopt, and I know people who won’t adopt, even though they want to, because of this expense, and this is for children who no longer need incubators. Once these incubators are developed, will government get out of the way, so that it wouldn’t be so darn expensive to adopt a child?

    2. It also mentions an obligation to keep the fetus alive when possible.
      But, yeah, “remove” would probably be a better and less loaded word choice.

  5. Eh. When you have to report percentages to four places, there is no significant difference. You’d have to have 1000 in the audience for that fourth digit to be significant.

  6. The correct libertarian position on abortion is that you CAN’T murder someone for temporarily inconveniencing you.

    You CAN murder someone for attempting to take your life.

    You CAN’T murder someone because of something someone else did to you.

    None of these positions is controversial to a libertarian.

    1. You CAN murder someone for attempting to take your life.
      Self-defense isn’t murder. We call it murder so as not to confuse it with things like self-defense, war killings, carrying out a death sentence, etc. All these things are about killing humans, but only unlawful killing is murder.

      1. Self-defense isn’t murder. We call it murder so as not to confuse it with things like self-defense, war killings, carrying out a death sentence, etc. All these things are about killing humans, but only unlawful killing is murder.

        Yeah. I should have used ‘kill’. It works better with ‘kill’

        The correct libertarian position on abortion is that you CAN’T kill someone for temporarily inconveniencing you.

        You CAN kill someone for attempting to take your life.

        You CAN’T kill someone because of something someone else did to you.

        None of these positions is controversial to a libertarian.

        And I don’t know what your retarded prog ass is on about, Chip–no one’s killing refugees for coming here.

    2. A fetus isn’t legally a person and has no rights so abortion isn’t murder.

      1. And taxation isn’t theft because it’s legal, right?

        1. No, it’s robbery because it’s under threat of force.

          1. No, it’s not robbery, either, because it’s legal, even under the threat of force.

      2. A fetus isn’t legally a person

        Sometimes.

      3. Your statement is only true if you agree with Hillary Clinton’s statement on the subject: A fetus has no rights because the government doesn’t grant any rights until after the fetus is born.

        In the Progressive viewpoint, all our rights come from government, which can grant them or withhold them or change them at will.

        That is NOT the principle on which this nation was founded, that we are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. Your principle is in direct conflict with our founding principle.

      4. This position of “a fetus isn’t a legal person” makes me think of when slaves weren’t legal persons. Was it okay to kill them because the government said they weren’t people? I’ve never seen a woman give birth to a pop tart-they always give birth to a human. The fetus is a different stage of a human. They don’t look the same as babies, who don’t look the same as toddlers, who don’t look the same as teenagers, etc. but they are all forms of humans.

        According to scientific principles, that fetus is alive-it exhibits homeostasis, contains DNA and cells, performs metabolism, grows, and arguably responds to its environment.

        If murder is killing a living human without a justifiable need to kill them (self defense), then I’m not sure how we can not qualify abortion as murder. I’m a woman who has been pregnant, and I know the first three months are a little miserable, and the last three months are arduous, however, even if a woman does use precautions like birth control, every person knows there is still a risk of pregnancy every time they have sex. They are choosing (not counting rape) to have sex despite the risk, so both partners are responsible for that human they made. Killing it out of inconvenience is murder.

    3. Oh, look, Azathoth is gonna house a bunch of refugees that are gonna get killed in their own country unless we let them in. Hey, that’s mighty nice of you.

      1. Azahoth let a bunch of countries ejaculate refugees inside of him?

        1. Go on….

      2. Chance of dying due to civil unrest != 100% chance of death due to abortion.

        Ever met an abortion survivor? Yeah.

        1. I happen to know an abortion survivor. She suspects she survived because she may have been a fraternal twin, and they didn’t have ultrasounds at the time.

          There are other survivors, too, some of whom manage to be close to full term, so the abortion process produced a live baby instead of a dead one — and in most States, when that happens, it’s illegal to kill the baby.

          1. That’s nice, but >99% aren’t surviving. The point was that abortion is a procedure with the intent of ending life, whereas people dying due to poor circumstances aren’t the victims of targeted violence.

    4. No, but what constitutes murder is.

  7. Is reason/SoHo/libertarian intelligentsia so fragile it cannot talk about abortion seriously? I’m sure someday there will be artificial wombs, perhaps surgical implanting into human surrogates; it is impossible to tell. Right now “evicting” a fetus means death. That is what the debate is about. Is it moral or immoral for a woman to kill another human gestating inside her body? There is no easy answer.

    1. If I was dying of kidney disease and you were the only match do you think the government should be allowed to use force to take one of yours and give it to me?

      1. Only if I am personally responsible for giving you that kidney disease.

        1. So, if it were theoretically possible to remove an embryo and put it inside a man, then a woman should be able to forcibly put a pregnancy inside the man that caused it. Is that what you are saying?

        2. So make the rapist carry the baby?

          1. Make the rapist financially responsible for the baby, certainly.

            1. What do they make in prison, 80 cents an hour?

  8. Why does there have to be one “correct” libertarian position on abortion? On many issues, we have general agreement: against the Drug War, freedom of press does include porn, most gun laws are unconstitutional, etc. But, there are areas where there isn’t 1 consistent position: Open borders, how isolationist should we be, and abortion.

    One can make a good, compelling argument for various positions on abortion. I think from a libertarian perspective, there are not good arguments for the far extremes:
    Neither the hard-core pro-choice (full and complete abortion on demand up until birth) nor the pro-life (human life begins at conception and therefore anything which terminates even the embryo at this stage is tantamount to killing a human being). But, there is lots of room between those that we may find ourselves disagreeing about.

    1. I don’t think there is a correct position on abortion. Whatever position creates the least harm is arguably the correct position. One could argue it’s less harmful for a woman to carry to term than to end a life before it can really begin. But I doubt women are about to sign up with that interpretation.

    2. Very good post.

      I struggle mightily since decades ago I had an abortion. I’m a guy, but I believe I had as much responsibility and culpability as my girlfriend.

      Was our life better as a result of it? Probably. Is that a good enough reason? As I’m getting older I’m thinking probably not.

      But you are right. Something in the middle is really the only viable answer.

      1. Agreed. It’s a shame that an issue where something in the middle would be the best, if imperfect, solution has been turned into a culture war battle ground.

      2. I’ve always been pro-life but had the same situation as you. While I’m not religious, I still view that as the worst thing I’ve ever done and it will be a weight on my conscience.
        It would have felt like a NAP violation to me to push harder than expressing my thoughts and feelings. I erred on the side of helping her with it rather than abandoning her to the decision she made as a result of what we did together.
        We created that life and we both are responsible for ending it. Were it not for that action, my daughter would have an older sibling.
        I think libertarians (and all adults) should advocate being responsible for their own actions. Ending a life because you don’t want to deal with the consequences of those actions is both irresponsible and violates any rights the fetus should/would have if not for the intervention

    3. I think the idea of abortion until viability is a good position and is consistent with the idea of negative rights. Libertarians generally hold that the only legitimate rights are negative.

      The “extreme” position (as you put it) of a right to life from conception implies a positive right. It requires an unwilling mother to host and nourish a fetus that couldn’t otherwise survive, and there are no other ways to sustain life without forcing that mother to sustain it. At the point of viability the right to life becomes negative, because the fetus is able to live without forcing the unwilling mother to support its right (by definition).

      Terminating the pregnancy prior to viability is consistent with a negative right to life for the fetus. Just as outlawing abortion after viability is consistent with a negative right to life for the fetus.

      1. Agreed. This is the only position consistent with libertarian ethics.

        1. I wouldn’t say “only” in the sense that we’ll kick you out of the club. I would say it’s the most logically consistent libertarian argument.

          I’m general, the other positions rely on some emotional appeal for either the mother or the fetus. We’re all human, with human emotion. Abortion is a tough issue.

          1. In general…

          2. Your position also relies on an emotional appeal

            1. What is it?

              1. “I think the idea of abortion until viability is a good position and is consistent with the idea of negative rights”

                1. Haha. Try again.

                  1. Why? Do you have a mathematical theorem that proves your position with absolute certainty? Or, alternatively, statistical evidence that this is the position consistent with negative rights?

                    If you don’t have those things, you’re appealing to the emotion of intuitivity, which, as any good mathematician knows, is a fine friend to have, but who will nonetheless occasionally stab you in the back.

      2. I mostly agree with you, but unwilling mother? Really?

        By the time you’re pregnant, that ship has sailed. Excepting rape of course and then it gets even terrible-er.

        1. I would call a woman seeking an abortion pretty damn unwilling to be a mother.

        2. This fucking bullshit about blaming the mother for getting pregnant is intricately tied up with religion’s anti-sex attitude and sexism. Birth control fails. Furthermore, a person has the right to change their mind about how their body is being used AT ANY TIME. OTtherwise, you are basically arguing that if a woman agrees to sex, but then changes her mind, the man has the right to continue and ejaculate inside her. Is that your position?

          1. Your choice of language is curious. Blame? Who’s blaming? It’s simply a matter of taking responsibility for the choices you make.

          2. No that is not my opinion and you’re arguing in bad faith even proposing that’s my opinion.

            I’m only talking about taking responsibility for your actions. Of course there are the rare cases like pregnancy from rape and the somewhat more common but still rare birth control failures. These edge cases must be dealt with separately from the general principle in my opinion.

            When you have consensual sex, there is the risk of pregnancy. Unless you are mentally disabled in some way, you know this.

            You don’t get relieved of the consequences of your assumption of risk simply by shrugging your shoulders and saying, welp, I didn’t want to happen! I am therefore being violated by this thing I voluntary created. No.

            All that said, I am very conflicted and I think abortion should be legal early in pregnancy.

            1. So she’s on the pill, uses a diaphragm and the guy uses a condom but if she gets pregnant it’s voluntary?

              1. Yes, and your example is reductio ad absurdum.

                1. That doesn’t necessarily make it a logical fallacy. It’s proof by contradiction.

                  1. Right. I realized after I said that I think I deployed it incorrectly.

                    But an absurd example or edge case cannot be used to dispel the general case.

          3. >”Furthermore, a person has the right to change their mind about how their body is being used AT ANY TIME.”

            That’s complete nonsense. If I pick up a baby I can’t suddenly drop it just because I changed my mind about how my arms are to be used.

      3. “It requires an unwilling mother to host and nourish a fetus that couldn’t otherwise survive, and there are no other ways to sustain life without forcing that mother to sustain it.”

        The “unwilling mother” was willing to risk the consequences of fucking.
        Does personal responsibility have a place in libertarianism?

        1. Is the need for personal responsibility greater than the right of self ownership?

          How should we hold an unwilling father accountable for his decision to have sex?

          1. 18 years of child support.

          2. Leo Kovalensky II
            December.19.2019 at 4:29 pm
            Is the need for personal responsibility greater than the right of self ownership?

            Can’t have one without the other, leo.

          1. Less than 1% of abortions.

            I’m pro abortion, but I have the balls to not pretend it’s a righteous position.
            I don’t value all human lives equally.
            It is what it is.
            But don’t be a pussy about it.

            1. Are you sure you want to be PRO abortion? That’s kinda sick.

              1. Like I said, don’t be a pussy about it.
                Try being honest with yourself instead

      4. It requires an unwilling mother

        Unwilling? A person who engages in the activity that produces fetuses is scarcely unwilling.

        Maybe unwitting, but not unwilling.

        The fetus doesn’t ask to be placed there–she(and her partner) FORCE it to be there.

        It literally CAN’T be anyplace else.

        You don’t get to kill people because you force them to be inconvenient for you.

        This is not a controversial statement.

    4. Yeah, there isn’t a libertarian position. Or at least not a libertarian moral position. Requires too many assumptions that libertarian principle doesn’t speak to.
      Practically speaking, I think it making it illegal would be an unacceptable burden on personal autonomy and that the ban would be ineffective (as it was before Roe v Wade). But I can understand why people might disagree.

      1. You don’t get to kill people because you force them to be inconvenient for you.

        This statement requires no assumptions.

        Suggesting that it doesn’t apply to fetuses makes the assumption that at some point a person is not a person and that it is okay to kill them if they aren’t persons.

  9. The only correct libertarian position is that there’s no such thing as a correct libertarian position on the issue. Personally, I’m pretty close to the Roe v Wade position, that in the first trimester the fetus is not a viable human being and therefore has no rights but that as the fetus approaches viability it gains humanity and certainly in the last trimester abortion is akin to murder. “For the health of the mother” can be considered a self-defense argument.

    But as a libertarian, not one thin dime of taxpayer funding. We all know where babies come from and claiming you got pregnant “accidentally” is no different then me drunkenly driving over some pedestrians on the sidewalk and claiming it was an accident. Just because you didn’t mean to do it doesn’t mean I’m somehow obligated to pay for your mistake – the freedom to do as you please carries the obligation to face the consequences of your actions.

    1. I’m with jerryskids on this one.

      It is a tough decision before viability (24 weeks) and therefore the libertarian in me thinks it most definitely should NOT be a decision the government makes for the woman.
      When in doubt, do not let the state decide. Hence pro choice until viability threshold.

    2. Yeah but if a women is too poor to afford paying for the 1st trimester abortion wouldn’t it make sense to cut the welfare losses by paying for the abortion? If it’s about the money paying for the abortion makes sense.

      1. The fetus isn’t the rapist, so imposing the costs of the rape on the fetus by terminating it is nonsensical and immoral.

        1. But it’s ok to impose those costs on the woman?

    3. “first trimester the fetus is not a viable human being”

      I’ll admit I do not have a clear cut answer for the topic at hand but, I’d be very careful with terms such as “viable”.

      If in the first trimester the fetus is not “viable”, what say the last “trimester” of life? If a person is not “viable” without life support, does another party then get to decide to end that life?

      Should we then also turn towards the “mentally unfit” who are not “viable”, contributing members of society? Slippery slope that’s already been tried. We didn’t like the outcome.

  10. The absolutist pro abortion rights position tends to put the person arguing it in the position of denying that inalienable rights are an inherent human quality. Once you have denied inherent human rights, you have undermined much of the rationale of libertarianism. Pro abortion libertarianism ends up contradictory and self destructive.

    1. What about the right of the mother to not have a squatter in her womb? That is apparently where modern libertarian thought has brought regarding the status of a fetus.

      1. there are many simple cheap ways to avoid having a squatter in the womb and unless it was forced there are early stage options

      2. It always amazes me how someone who calls themselves a libertarian, and therefore claims to have some logical thinking capability, ever puts forth the squatter or trespasser idea as a defense of abortion.

        1. It’s essentially a cop-out since it has no basis in reality. For a fetus to survive outside the womb requires enormous technological intervention to keep it viable. And even if it were possible there will always be risk to transplanting a fetus from one womb to another.

          Block’s entire argument had zero foundation in reality. It is essentially a futurist position. Much like a stateless society that remains peaceful, it is impossible and fantastic.

        2. It is a desperate attempt to find d something that sounds good looked at at surface depth but does not hold up under closer scrutiny.

        3. The woman doesn’t own her uterus and has no control over it?

          1. Yes and those poor dears are constantly unintentionally getting semen in them through no doing of their own.

            1. Yes, it’s called rape.

              1. And women are never not raped.

                1. That wouldn’t be unintentional.

                  1. Do you dare suggest that a woman might intentionally have sex?

                2. I thought all heterosexual sex was rape.

      3. If to use a term such as “squatter”, you must assume the tenet was not invited.

        With this argument, I imagine simple contract law. Here, the person(s) invited the tenant, and now are attempting evict mid-contract.

        What options or relief do you suggest we award the tenant when the other party wants to terminate the lease?

        1. That analogy doesn´t get you too far. There was no meeting of minds to form the contract between the landlord and tenant in that the tenant had no capacity to contract.

          1. The tenant had some compacity, if only in the capacity to reject the contract or, take up residence.

            In this case, the tenant chose (for whatever reason) to take up residence.

          2. Considering that the tenant cannot contract because she is a minor, we now find ourselves with the question: who is responsible for caretaking and decision-making of this minor?

            If I were to evict a two-year-old from my property, without making sure that the two-year-old had a guardian to protect her, and she dies, I would be held liable for her death — at a minimum, voluntary manslaughter, but depending on the circumstances, it can even be considered first degree murder.

      4. What about my right to not struggle to not have trouble breathing after walking up the stairs, after eating two dozen donuts a day for 20 years?

        Libertarianism was never about avoiding the natural consequences of one’s actions.

    2. The absolute pro-life position puts the person arguing for it arguing for positive rights, ie you have the right to force someone to support your rights. That’s not a libertarian position at all.

      1. That would suggest the crime of child neglect is also an illegitimate assertion of positive rights.

        1. Either libertarianism recognizes legally enforceable parental responsibilities towards their children or libertarianism is not compatible with the notion if parent/child relationships at all. Which would suggest it is not a suitable philosophy for building a human society at all

          1. “legally enforceable parental responsibilities”

            Who defines those parental responsibilities?

            I believe that it is the parents responsibility that all children must attend public school, live in a 30,000sft home, wear a different outfit everyday for a month, and eat nothing but tofu and rice. Anything less is irresponsible.

            1. Not intentionally harming the child is a minimum requirement.

              1. Again, who will define this harm?

                If I take my six-year-old hunting with me, teaching her gun safety and tracking skills, I’m sure there would be some group of people that would find this harmful to the child.

                My 15 year old, mowing the lawn on a riding mower is heavily frowned upon.

                1. Considering that Libertarian principles certainly prevent you from murdering your six-year-old or 15-year-old, there’s surely some line between that and “taking a six-year-old hunting and letting a 15-year-old mow the lawn”.

                  Also considering that the law differentiates between murder, manslaughter, accident, self-defense, neglect, abuse, and so forth, I don’t think that it’s all that difficult to draw the line *somewhere*, at least, over a period of hundreds of years.

        2. It’s a fair argument. I wouldn’t equate child neglect with murder, that’s for certain. Perhaps society would be better if we didn’t require parents who are unwilling or unable to care for the children to do so. Especially when there are so many willing people to care for children.

          Either way, a child is viable and can live without its biological parents. Until it becomes easy and relatively affordable to extract an embryo and implant it into a willing mother or otherwise keep it alive, abortion is the only option respecting a woman’s rights to self ownership.

    3. You can’t escape the fact that scientifically a embryo may have human genes but it is not a person until late in the pregnancy. Try to take a look at the brainwaves coming out of a fetus prior to viability and compare with that of a brain-dead person.

      1. A baby isn’t really a “person” until about 18 months of age. Until that point, they are not self-aware, no more human than a meerkat or an aardvark. That doesn’t mean that infanticide up to that point is allowed even in societies which were built on classical liberal values.

    4. Our libertarian grandchildren will be horrified at the many millions of human babies assassinated with the consent of their own mothers. Many decades ago, there were no methods to avoid pregnancies, and abortion could possibly be justified to avoid extreme poverty. (Of course rape and incest are the exceptions.) Nowadays, there are several safe and effective ways to avoid pregnancies and therefore murdering human babies is an inexcusable crime. Please note that I am an atheist, and so only my very human morals drive me to abhor the mass murder of babies. Of course, the political left has been brainwashing everybody into accepting this crime as a “right” of women, but it is obviously a way to downgrade the crime of murder. The communists, socialists and related criminals assassinated about 150 million defenseless people just a few decades ago, by starvation and freezing, and by bullet and blade. They are now installing in our 20th and 21st century culture the belief that butchering human babies is justified and good – a sacrament of the Marxist-leninist religion. Ethical and intelligent people have the supreme duty to stop this disgusting massacre. Every year, Americans go abroad by the thousands to adopt children, often with dubious health and genetic inheritance. Let them adopt the babies unwanted by their mothers in our countries. And let us educate men and women to make them responsible for their actions – creating a baby is not a trivial act. It does not justify murder.

  11. As a man, I swear that I shall never have an abortion.

    1. We should probably ban coathangers, just to be sure.

      1. At least ban the sale of 10-packs.

        1. Coathangers with the folding hook are the scariest. You know, assault coathangers.

          1. Don’t forget concealable coat hangers like in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

      2. no more wire hangers, ever!

  12. I thought the point of being a libertarian was not having my viewpoints forced on me like I was some sort of filthy 2-party peasant.

    1. Couldn’t the same argument be made for the unborn child?

      I’ve never understood why this issue is always framed the way that it is, as if sexual intercourse is entirely involuntary like shitting or something. My wife and I have one child, and unbelievably it was the one time I didn’t wrap it up that she got pregnant as a result. Shocking.

      1. It is the childish libertine tendency.

        “If I cannot have sex without consequences or responsibilities I do not want then I am not free.”

        Misunderstanding that freedom comes with accepting the consequences and was responsibilities resulting from your choices.

      2. You know rape is a thing right?

        1. You have to deal with rape of course, but you can’t let that very exceptional case determine the morality/policy that is best.

          It’s very rare.

          1. The real “pro-lifers” don’t make exceptions for rape. They say all embryos are equally entitled to a womb no matter what.

            1. And there are even some pro-lifers who don’t make exception for rape because they wouldn’t be here today if their mother had aborted them for being conceived by rape.

          2. If abortion isn’t murder for rape it’s never murder.

            1. Rephrased: If killing someone in self defense isn’t murder, then killing anyone for any reason isn’t murder either.

              See how stupid that is?

              1. It’s really stupid since the two things aren’t synonymous.

      3. I was referring more to how they’re telling us what the “correct” libertarian view is. I personally agree with you, it takes two to tango.

  13. There really isn’t one because the core conflict between ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-choice’ is when ‘human’ starts.

    All libertarians will tell you that its wrong to murder.

    But not all libertarians agree on where the line between ‘clump of cells’ and ‘baby’ is.

    *That’s* where the conflict lies and there is absolutely no way for libertarianism to draw that line from first principles.

    1. A baby is a very young child. A child is someone between the ages of birth and puberty. In order to be a baby you have to be born.

      1. So it’s ok to kill a baby (sorry, a FETUS) right before it passes the finish line?

        1. Yes. Personally I’d make it when the water breaks as the cut off.

          1. So a baby born in an intact amniotic sac (which happens) is fair game to kill?

            1. Show me one case where a baby was born in a fully fluid filled amniotic sac.

      2. That’s not even the correct definition of “child”. When my kid is 35 with kids of his own, he is still my child because he derives from me, his parent.

        See definition of parentage, the use of “child” in requirements management, etc.

      3. Yes?

        So, you’re drawing the line at birth. But don’t pretend *you’re* not drawing a line – and that other people draw that line elsewhere.

        Which was my point and which is at the core of the abortion debate and where the line should be drawn is not something libertarianism can tell you.

    2. No, that is not the only issue. Absolutely not. There are two issues: when does a fetus become a person, and does a women have absolute self-ownership of her body. Even after a fetus becomes a person, the woman still has the right to evict the fetus from her body.

      1. OK? But you’re not refuting my point. Which is that libertarianism can’t answer those questions because they require value judgements outside the scope of libertarianism.

        Once a fetus becomes a person – then its not legal to murder them.

        LIbertarianism can not tell you if something is a person or not, only how to deal with them if they are.

        Once a mother takes on a duty of care she must discharge that duty.

        LIbertarianism can not tell you if someone has taken on a duty of care, only that they must discharge that duty if they have.

    3. Would it be murder for a hospital to deny a patient treatment if it couldn’t pay?

      Is your right to life legitimate if it requires you to force someone else to support it?

      1. Would it be murder for a hospital to deny a patient treatment if it couldn’t pay?

        Did the hospital cause (by intent or neglect) their terminal condition to begin with? The answer to your question really depends on that.

        If we are equating an unborn baby to a squatter, then the question is whether you chose to invite them into your home in the first place and under what terms.

        1. Sorry, forgot to close the tag

        2. Perhaps the hospital admitted the person willingly in order to diagnose their condition. Upon learning that it would require more treatment than anyone is willing to absorb the costs of, what should be the obligation of the hospital? If you have an absolute right to life, there’s no legitimate response other than to force the doctors to administer care, at gunpoint if necessary.

          There is no absolute right to life, is my point.

          1. Perhaps the hospital admitted the person willingly in order to diagnose their condition.

            There’s the initial choice to admit someone that was not a result of coercion.

            1. I’m missing your point. Are you saying that because the hospital chose to admit at one time, they are obligated to care for the patient no matter what in the future?

          2. And libertarianism can’t answer that question.

      2. Did the hospital, by some action on their part, take on a duty of care for you?

        Has a mother, on becoming pregnant, taken on a similar duty of care?

        And, again, libertarianism can’t tell you if she has or not – only that if she has then she’s stuck.

    4. Yup. Any political philosophy that also attempts to fill in the details of what line demarks “human” and “not human” is overreaching to the point of uselessness.

      It’s okay that libertarians have no consistent answer on this issue because the underlying principles go beyond the scope of libertarian values.

  14. Do I need to watch the debate in order to comment with an opinion or can I just let it rip? What’s the proper etiquette in this instance?

    1. Go for it. The debate is 1.5 hours long.

      1. Yeah…. seems a bit long.

    2. Etiquette??? You must be new around here.

      1. Not new. But don’t comment often, and as contentious as this topic is, I thought it might be bad form to just throw out a biased opinion without having seen the debate. Of course this is the internet, so…

        1. I’m actually offended that you wouldn’t just throw out a biased opinion without having seen the debate.
          The nerve!

    3. No one actually reads the articles or watched the video. We skin the byline and maybe glance at the first sentence then off to the comments.

    4. For what it’s worth, I intend to watch the debate some time in the future, but I’ve made a lot of comments already. I suspect I’ve been responding to comments made by people who haven’t watched the debate themselves — although there’s no way for me to be sure, particularly since I haven’t watched the debate yet — but I don’t see anything wrong with that, either.

    5. Proper ettiquite is to read the headline, get all het up, and then light up the comment’s section.

      Please ensure you smack at the author for not answering at least one question that the author actually answers in the text of the article (or in the video).

      Bonus points if you can credibly write a negative comment taking the author to task for holding a position opposite the position they make clear they hold in the article.

  15. Depends.

    When does a lump of cells become a person?

    Prior to that, a woman has the right to do whatever she wants with her body.

    After that, it’s initiation of force.

    1. Nope. Wrong. A woman has the right to evict a person from her body AT ANY TIME. She just can’t kill it. She has to make a reasonable effort to make sure the fetus does not die. Currently, it may not be medically feasible to keep the fetus alive in all cases, in which case, the woman is not responsible for murder. Just as you would not be responsible for murder if you didn’t feed a starving child. You would be an asshole, but not a murderer.

      1. If I was the legal guardian of a child who dies of starvation and it is found that I deprived it of food, I could be charged with murder.

        1. Legal guardianship carries with it certain duties. If you gave the child up and someone else took over as legal guardian, your duties would stop. The same goes for a fetus. When a woman evicts a fetus, she puts the guardianship rights up and someone else can take over. After they do, her duties stop. If no one offers to take over, well then I guess pro-lifers don’t care that much about the fetus.

          1. You can’t legally just “give up” guardianship and hope someone takes over. You need to find someone who’s willing to take over guardianship first before you stop withholding food.

          2. You’re not putting the ‘child’ up for adoption in this scenario, you’re kicking it out of your house so it starves in the street.

            1. Doing so to a *born* child is not considered ‘giving up guardianship’. Its considered child abuse.

      2. So you’re saying that any procedure that literally rips the fetus apart limb by limb should be illegal, because it kills the fetus in the process of eviction — and after the removal of the intact fetus, everything should be done to preserve its life.

        Also, it should be illegal to inject a saline solution (or any other poison) into the fetus, and then wait for the mother’s body to purge the fetus from the womb.

        And certainly, partial-birth abortions, where the brains of the baby are sucked out just barely before delivery, should, 100%, definitely be off the table!

    2. When does a lump of cells become a person? At about 18 months of age, after birth. Before that, a human is not self aware, no different in its humanity from a hedgehog or a fancy rat.

      1. Why should self-awareness be a criterion for being a human? I was not self-aware when I had anesthesia to have my appendix removed. Was I a non-human entity during that time?

        And what about animals who *are* self-aware, as elephants, some apes, and a few other animals have been able to demonstrate? Are they humans too?

        1. That’s my point – a lump of cells (such as a human in a coma or under anesthesia) should not lose its rights when it has the full potential to transform (or transform back) into a full fledged human being.

  16. It’s a simple question of property rights. The uterus belongs to the woman and a fetus has no more right to its use than I have to one of your kidneys. A fetus survives solely on the good will of the woman and that’s all there is to it. My personal take on when abortion should no longer be legal would be when the water breaks.

    1. Holy shit then you are evil.

      1. Did you donate one of your kidneys? There are many out there that need one. Should we call you a murderer if you refuse?

        1. Why do you argue in such bad faith?

          He said until the water breaks. By then the baby has been a viable human being for weeks. It’s incontrovertibly murder to purposely take the life of that child.

          1. Why do you accuse me of arguing in bad faith? I could just as well accuse you of arguing in bad faith by calling someone else evil for having a different opinion. I posed a legitimate and relevant question. And I notice you didn’t answer it.

            1. The question was non responsive to the issue at hand and was a way to distract from the point I was making. It was you who was not facing the issue.

              And no, you should not call me a murderer if I don’t donate a kidney. It is not the same thing, and you know it, this your are arguing in bad faith.

            2. “Why do you accuse me of arguing in bad faith?”

              Probably because you’re a little bitch who doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to understand your position or make a compelling case.

            3. Because you are.

              I’ve stayed out of the poo-flinging that you guys like to get involved in but, goddamn, you’re some foul individuals.

          2. A fetus isn’t legally a person so no it’s not murder.

            1. A slave wasn’t really afforded the full rights of a person, yet a libertarian would be willing to support slavery because the law said so?

    2. So if you don’t want your toddler anymore, you toss him out the door in the middle of winter and let him freeze to death?

  17. The simple fact is this: All fetuses are, by natural design, parasitical. They all can and some do cause significant harm to women’s bodies. Every birth causes physical damage to the mother, and in very tragic cases, some births cause death. I always thought the sole libertarian perspective on this and other similar subjects on personal choice was to stay out of making decisions about others’ bodies and their choices. But if it that is untrue, then libertarianism is a sham.

    The problem though is that we equate our existences to our reproductive success. I suppose “survival of the species” is at work here. It’s a primitive but very accurate view of how many people view humanity, and it drives the vast majority of decisions made in almost every aspect of our lives. So anything antithetical to making babies could be considered an alien concept. It is odd how many people ask me if I have children. As if having children is the only valid existence on this planet.

    As an aside, I always find it interesting that the people who are most often advocating for the death penalty are often the same people who are pro-life. It’s a strange dichotomy of morality that I’ve never understood.

    1. Libertarianism is not a sham, but a lot of people on Reason are not libertarians. Most are Conservatives, that lean libertarian. There is a difference.

      1. Yeah, there are very few actual libertarians in this comment section. Compare this to the libertarian subreddit, for example.

        1. I know, right?
          It is night and day.

    2. The problem with this very difficult question is that at some point, you’re not just talking about one body and one person choosing, you’re talking about two.

      1. A fetus isn’t legally a person.

        1. You keep saying this as if your position would change if tomorrow all governments enacted laws stating that fetuses are people from the moment of conception.

    3. The host of a parasite does not have organs specifically developed for the support of the parasite. You are using the scientific term “parasite” in an ignorant or malicious fashion, making a bad argument.

    4. find the morality of people who are against the death penalty and for abortion to be utterly irrational. People who hold the opposite at least have the logically defensible holding that taking another’s life is so heinous that it justifies forfeiting the offender’s life in retribution.

      1. You illustrate an excellent point. That point is about people who make asinine assumptions about another’s beliefs by attempting to read into more than what was written, being aggrieved from carefully limited information, using those assumptions and grievance to further espouse a personal belief system to smugly validate their disagreement with someone who may not share their beliefs. Calling anyone ignorant simply because you disagree with their viewpoint makes any point you were trying to get across irrelevant. Who’s going to give a shit what you say if you can’t play nice? If you had come in a more open and agreeable manner, I might have enjoyed some debate. Alas, you chose to be rude and petty, when you could have chosen a more reasoned intellectual stance.

        But it’s the internet… am I right, mate?

        1. You think that was rude? How laughable!

    5. Well, the whole thing wouldn’t be an issue if people stopped considering abortion to be a form of birth control – and their preferred form.

      And, you know, *planned* families.

  18. We don’t even have the right to evict the homeless junkie from the sidewalk…

    1. The sidewalk is public property.

  19. you misspelled murder.

  20. I agree with Block’s principle that it is a perfectly defensible libertarian position to posit that a homeowner has the right to evict a trespasser. However, I think the analogy falls short when one considers:

    1. Eviction means, in practice, for most abortion certain death for the trespasser
    2. The homeowner in this case bears, in practice, the onus for the trespasser having trespassed (in almost all cases except rape which represents an insignificant share of abortions)

    So Baldwin wins this, I think, though just.

    1. I’ll have to watch the exchange, but this is a very strange point to predicate your pro-abortion argument on…

      “trespasser” “evict”.

      If I suddenly decided that my two yr old was ‘trespassing’ in a room in my house, could I “evict” her by kicking her out to the sidewalk? I think there’d be some neglect issues there.

      The question isn’t one of ‘property’, the question is one of obligations surrounding caretaking. A better ‘for’ argument would be related to the lack of need for fetal ‘caretaking’ therefore it’s not immoral to ‘evict’ the fetus.

      1. The question for me is of conflicting rights; namely the rights to life and self ownership. I believe they are equally important, while most pro-life arguments would suggest that life is more important than self ownership.

        When rights conflict, there must be some form of arbitration or compromise. The idea of viability, specifically as it relates to the point that the fetus’s right to life becomes negative at this point, is to me the logical point to compromise on.

        1. Perhaps we just need a law that states any fetal eviction requires a 90 day notice.

        2. A fetus isn’t legally a person so it has no rights.

          1. What qualities separate a fetus just prior to birth from a baby that has just emerged from the birth canal?

              1. Babies breath in the womb — in fact, breathing amniotic fluid is *crucial* for lung development.

                I know, because I had a son who didn’t have working kidneys, and thus was unable to breath after he was born — he took breaths, but couldn’t process the oxygen — and thus he was only able to live for about five hours.

          2. You think the government can, in justice, deny rights to a class of humans?

            What primitive authoritarian thinking!

              1. No, the potential to be a human individual existence has already been realized.

        3. Agree with Leo. There is a fundamental conflict of rights here. Libertarianism is all about individual freedom and responsibility. This presupposes that individuals are separate entities. Not so with a pregnant woman and her child: they are literally bound to each other. Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term infringes on her autonomy and self ownership. Aborting a fetus infringes on the right to life of the baby. No solution will satisfy both rights. And in the absence of a clear answer, the default position should letting the state use coercion to enforce a preferred outcome.
          Safe, legal and rare is a cliche but it really seems to be the only sensible policy recommendation.

          1. Should NOT be letting the state decide. Where is that Edit button …..

      2. Not only can you evict your child, you can dismember your child in the process.

  21. Just an observation, but to this point this has been one of the most civil, and therefore useful, debates in the Reason comments since I’ve been here. And on this subject to boot.

    1. Yes, and thank you for your insightful comments.

        1. Oh man, I didn’t mean that in a bad way, why do I get the fuck off?

          I genuinely think it was a pretty good thread and I liked Leo’s posts. It came off as weird when I said it though.

          1. Because I noticed that the thread had been decidedly civil as well, so I thought I’d bring it back to what we’re used to.

            1. Ha! Awesome.

              Well then fuck you, you donkey-ass-licking, grandma-kicking, brainless oaf!

            2. Don’t worry, soon enough someone will be along to shit it up like usual.

    2. It’s really something. I think it might have something to do with certain commenters not having made an appearance. Amazing what can happen when people have a discussion instead of trying to make you “cry” or accusing everyone of being a sock-puppet.

      1. Okay Zeb, just stop the pretense and admit already that you are my sockpuppet. 🙂

        1. I thought I was your sock puppet, little Jeffy. 🙁

  22. The correct libertarian position on abortion is that there is no perfect, correct libertarian position. You’ve got one person’s body living inside another person’s body, which really creates real-world scenarios that mess with any purist libertarian reasoning.

    1. Childhood in general is unresolvable by that (unfortunately common) interpretation of libertarianism. It suggests that any parent should be able to abandon any child at any time.

  23. The real correct position is the missionary position.

  24. What’s the Correct Libertarian Position on Abortion?

    That you join the private community that agrees with your views.

    If you’re asking what the correct libertarian position on what the US government should do, there is none: “what should the US government do on abortion/immigration/drugs/…” is not a libertarian question because the US government isn’t close to being libertarian.

  25. Looks like I’m late for the party.

    I didn’t listen to the debate, but I see they got a man to do the pro-choice side and a woman to do the prolife side. So they’re not stacking the deck with a prochoice woman versus some…man.

  26. The pro/anti-abortion debate depends entirely on the moment when life begins, which cannot be objectively measured or determined.
    If life begins before the abortion, then it’s murder. If after, then it’s excising a clump of unwanted cells.
    Either side of the debate can and will argue their opinions on when life begins, but until we have a device that can actually measure it repeatably for any operator with a known margin of error, this debate will never be resolved.

    1. I truly do not understand the value of this argument.

      If you cannot determine when life begins, then how can you not default to the earliest point at which life can be said to begin to ensure you have not made an error?

      In no way does it justify to moving the legal devolution of rights to the very end of the uncertain period.

      1. Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, you wouldn’t bury someone simply because, gosh, you couldn’t decide whether he was alive or not!

  27. What I have finally settled upon, is a sort of Schrodinger’s Fetus: that since we do not *know*, in an objective sense, the moral state of the fetus during a certain period of the pregnancy process (generally, from conception until “viability”), then whether abortion is murder during this period of uncertainty, is *unknowable* on a fundamental level, at least on some objective level.

    If the fetus is “alive” during this stage of the pregnancy, then the woman killing this fetus would be a grave violation of the fetus’ rights.
    But if the fetus is “not alive” during this stage of the pregnancy, then PREVENTING the woman from “killing” this fetus would be a grave violation of the woman’s rights.

    Since we cannot know with objective certainty whether any potential abortion (within this time window of the pregnancy) is going to violate someone’s rights, or whether forbidding a potential abortion is going to violate someone’s rights, then we should leave the decision up to the individuals involved, and trust them to do what they believe is morally correct.

    1. Yes, I think this is the only possible political approach.

    2. What right does a fetus have to the use of the woman’s uterus against her will?

      1. How is it a right has the woman to make the circumstances that a child is created and then kill it?

    3. Which means that you have decided the child has no moral value. This is an unserious argument, that gives all to one side while allegedly making no decision at all.

    4. “we do not *know*, in an objective sense, the moral state of the fetus during a certain period of the pregnancy process”

      Do we know, in an objective sense, the moral state of any person or human? Perhaps it is justifiable to terminate many lives for convenience, or scientific or economic progress?

      “If the fetus is “alive” during this stage of the pregnancy, then the woman killing this fetus would be a grave violation of the fetus’ rights.”

      Um, the fetus is alive. That is a scientific fact which is completely knowable. The moral question cannot be answered by science. But whether the fetus is alive, and whether it is human, are purely scientific questions, and the fetus is undeniably an alive human.

  28. What’s the Correct Libertarian Position on Abortion?

    Same as every other radical left wing movement: unregulated, legal under all circumstances including infanticide, paid for by taxpayers, and targeted to minorities.

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  30. There are lots of difficult laws we enforce that occasionally punish people with understandable motives in order to protect a greater good, like our individual liberties. Why should abortion be any different?

  31. Skimming the comments, are people even aware that the entire fetus is reduced to a bloody slurry, or dismembered piece by piece, BEFORE it is “evicted” from the womb?

    This is nothing like just evicting someone, or disconnecting their life support or anything like that.

  32. It sounds like reason prevailed over superstition.

    Libertarians For Statist Womb Management and Libertarians For Big-Government Micromanagement Of Ladyparts Clinics hardest hit.

    1. Heh. The article declared a winner, but then showed that it was so close, it might as well have been a tie.

      And using government to protect innocent life is still a viable Libertarian position, because that’s one of the few important roles of government that Libertarians are willing to recognize.

      1. Ok, now that I’ve actually listened to the debate, I see that your happiness over “reason prevail[ing] over superstition” is a bit misplaced.

        The debate wasn’t so much about “Should we have the freedom to tear non-human blobs out of the mother’s womb?” as it was “Should we have the freedom to evict a fetus from the womb, regardless of viability?”

        The side that won said “Hey, we should be able to do that, but only if the fetus remains intact afterward. Whether the fetus lives afterwards is up to our medical technology.” In other words, if we adopted the winner’s approach to this topic, we would have to insist that no abortion be performed that either poisons the fetus and kills it, or rips the fetus to pieces.

        Thus, it follows that the winner would still ban most methods of abortion.

        Having said that, I agree with you: it’s good to see that the barbaric superstition that a fetus is merely a clump of cells until the mother declares it a baby is being defeated. I’m excited to see that the fetus is being recognized as the human life that it is, and has been from the moment of conception!

    2. Funny how you think its statist to protect the life of the unborn.

      I hate how duplicitous leftists are in this debate. The “permit unlimited abortions with no questions asked or else it’s the Handmaid’s Tale” argument is a false choice.

  33. I find it hilarious the woman took the anti-abortion stance.

    I find it hilarious that the pro-life movement is predominately driven by women.

    I find pro-choice men incredibly disgust-worthy.

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