Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The Libertarian Case Against Abortion (Part II)
This is not just a matter of word games. The entire narrative of the abortion rights movement is built around the tribalism of men versus women and women as the oppressed victims of men. Libertarians recognize that for liberty to mean anything it must apply only to individuals. In order to gain rights as individuals, we must agree to surrender all extra ontological claims of group identity leaving just the individual identity.
Libertarians understand that the flip side of all rights is responsibility; I am allowed to do whatever I want to myself because I carry all the consequences. It is my right to eat all the fatty foods I like and smoke tobacco and marijuana because it is I who will have to pay for my own healthcare costs and am unable to force society to pay through any government subsidized healthcare. Feminists have no interest in paying for the consequences of their right to choose. If women have the right to choose whether to carry a fetus to term, without the interference of the biological father or the government, then they and only they are to bear the consequences, mainly child support. This would have potentially disastrous consequences for all women as men would become categorically exempt from ever paying child support. Every man would be able to claim that he never wanted the child in question to be born and that it was only the woman's choice. This would apply to one night stands as well as ten-year marriages. Every woman, before she brings a child to term, would need to get the father of the child to sign a legal document obligating himself to pay child support. As the law stands now, my theoretical girlfriend can lie to me about using birth control, get pregnant and force me to pay eighteen years of child support, hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is unjust and the Libertarian knows that the blame for this injustice lies at the feet of the morally self-satisfied feminist.
To finally get to the act of abortion itself, it is not obvious that abortion would be always legal even under libertarian law. The moment we acknowledge that fetuses are something above animals (Libertarianism would allow Michael Vick to run his dog fighting ring) and at the level of humans or near so then the right to choose goes out the window. Libertarians, despite their love of liberty, do not believe in a right to commit murder. On the contrary, our commitment to making sure that everyone can engage in all activities that do not cause direct physical harm to others is matched by our willingness to go after those who do cause direct physical harm. Furthermore, it might be theoretically plausible to assume some sort of direct state interest in the bearing of children, which might open the door to some sort of government interference. May I suggest that, considering that bodily rights are extensions of property rights, the government is allowed to interfere with the decisions of pregnant women to the same extent that they are allowed to interfere in the acquirement of oil and other natural resources found on private property?
Libertarians believe in the right to control one's own body. This would preclude a Libertarian becoming a conventional conservative pro-lifer. We have no interest in pushing our values on other people. Any attempt to force women to carry a child to term would mean that the government must also provide social services to support that child. We are trying to get rid of government welfare and will seek to find every excuse to avoid expanding it. That being said, a Libertarian is not likely to look favorably at the modern left and the pro-choice movement as it exists today as we would reject their premises as nearly as inimical to liberty as that of the right. If conservatives are heathens who do not understand the concept of rights then the modern left are apostate traitors who have sold out on human rights for petty tribalist gain. I would even go so far as to suggest that there may be grounds to reject the left's conclusions about abortion as well.