Libertarianism, Abortion, and Fetal Self-Ownership (2 of 2)
This episode is the second half of my previous episode, and is intended to be heard with the last one in mind. Previously, I evaluated Murray Rothbard’s argument favoring the right to abortion and revealed some of its flaws by using Rothbard’s own human rights methodology. While Rothbard argues that the entire structure of property rights is articulated in libertarianism, and is also sufficient for establishing human rights, he deviates from his methodology in discussing abortion. He essentially concedes the possibility that the fetus has a negative right to non-interference, but asserts that doesn’t necessarily mean the mother is obligated to provide life-support. In this episode, I will argue that Rothbard’s approach does support a libertarian claim of limited natural positive rights between parents and their offspring, and that the mother does have responsibility to provide life-support to her fetus.
Join me, Kerry Baldwin, as we Dare to Think, about Part 2 of Libertarianism, Abortion, and Fetal Self-ownership.
One thing my listeners should be aware of, is how modern political philosophies often speak of rights. First, modern political philosophies are based primarily in ethics, and so take rights to be relative, that governing authorities may limit based on their particular ethical bent. The politics of civil governance, then, is boiled down to who has the moral high ground. And if two sides seem to have a legitimate moral claim, then “compromise” is accomplished through regulating the nuances of the issue. This is not the approach that Murray Rothbard uses in grounding a libertarian conception of rights and governance.
The two competing philosophies at the time of America’s founding were classical liberalism (what we know today as libertarianism) and classical republicanism. These systems of thought are not grounded in ethics. Instead, they’re grounded in nature, with the primary questions identifying actual rights and who has actual authority to govern. Matters of ethics do arise from these systems, but they are not themselves ethics-based. So it’s necessary to challenge your own paradigm of political philosophy and rights in order to really grasp what Rothbard (and myself) are doing here.
Many prolifers take great offense to removing the moral argument and reasonably so. There is a moral aspect to abortion. And though it’s prochoicers who are responsible for introducing personhood into the abortion debate, conservative Christians are usually the first to balk at the notion that removing personhood from the discussion is necessary. Of course, I’m not denying the moral aspect, nor am I denying personhood. But what comes first in the discussion? The ethics of rights and governance, or the origin and identification of rights and governance? Bear this in mind if you find your thoughts continually reverting to what is morally superior concerning abortion. It’s our sense of moral superiority which has fanned the flames polarizing this topic, now reducing it to a competition of criminalizing the other side first, without regard to knowledge of actual rights and of actual authority.
Why is the libertarian approach better?
Recall from the last episode the thought experiment called The Violinist. Judith Jarvis Thomson is making the ethical case that we don’t owe each other an ambiguous “right to life.” I mentioned it in the last episode, but I’m going to repeat it here:
It goes like this: suppose one morning you wake up to find yourself connected by medical tubes to an unconscious violinist. If you disconnect now, the violinist will die. If you wait 9 months to disconnect, the violinist will live. Thompson argues that since you weren’t connected by choice, that you aren’t ethically obligated to remain connected, and therefore you ought to have a legal right to disconnect yourself. See how we’re confusing ethics with legality? Let me change that statement, to make it consistent. If you weren’t connected by choice, then you aren’t legally obligated to remain connected, and therefore ought to have a legal right to disconnect yourself. Hear the difference? But in order to make this claim, we must have an objective basis from which to make it, and the objective basis must be unambiguous. Expressing the right to disconnect in terms of property rights, helps solve the confusion.
Now, as applied to abortion, Thomson is essentially saying what Rothbard is saying, that while you may morally owe it to the fetus to not kill it in its present state, you are also not legally obligated to be the life-support system and therefore may disconnect yourself, even though disconnecting would lead to the fetus’ ultimate demise.
Since Rothbard’s approach to human rights is grounded in nature, he can argue that human rights (as expressed in terms of property rights) are inescapably true; ie., you can’t ignore the existence of human rights because you can’t escape the reality of nature. This is why Rothbard can claim that property rights disambiguate human rights.
Why is this important to abortion?
It changes the landscape of the abortion debate which has been primarily made from an ethical perspective. We can more easily deny ethical claims, than we can deny reality. From a Rothbardian perspective, we’re no longer talking about what “sounds” right to our emotional sensibilities, which is in part what we’re doing when we debate ethics – we pick topics that pull on our heart strings, so-to-speak. But by grounding human rights in nature we’re talking about something we can’t deny, without denying reality itself. It creates incontestable axioms. Rights become manifestly obvious, not merely emotionally sensible.
But if this is the case, then we cannot merely assert an ambiguous “right to life” either; and prochoicers are correct to point this out. We must know what exactly a “right to life” entails, and what it doesn’t.
From Rothbard’s perspective, providing life-support to the fetus is essentially a subjectively moral question, and ought not be considered a legal obligation, as this may create a dangerous precedent when it comes to property rights. This is reasonable, and we ought to tread cautiously here. But I contend that libertarian property rights, in the Lockean tradition, developed through Mises and Rothbard, supports a kind of natural positive rights that are exclusive and delimited; reserved only to the parent-offspring relationship.
To show this, we must be able to deduce from nature a unique relationship between mother and offspring, that renders her responsible to either provide life-support herself, or find a suitable alternative. Since we are operating on Rothbard’s claim that property rights answers questions of human rights unambiguously, then we should be able to answer this question using his methodology in property rights. Let’s look at the property rights parents have in their children.
Are offspring the property of their parents?
Stephan Kinsella, a property rights attorney and contributor to the Mises Institute, explains the nature of property this way: “When you use a resource to change the world, it becomes an extension of yourself. It becomes identified with you; it’s a characteristic, feature, or aspect of you… it’s a property of you. And because it’s a property of you, you have a proprietary interest in that thing; you are the owner.” http://www.stephankinsella.com/paf-podcast/kol219-property-what-it-is-and-isnt-hpra/
After conception, the fetus has identifiable characteristics, features, and aspects shared with the parents. And what’s shared with the parents naturally fade, though not entirely, over time as the child comes into his own.
I want to pause for a moment … think back to the previous episode and Rothbard’s point that absolute self-ownership is a “primordial fact.” The primordial nature of this fact is not just temporal (that is, a fact that has been true from the beginning of human history) but is also biological (a fact that is true from the beginning of human development.) It’s not enough to observe natural man in his environment, although we have learned quite a lot from doing so, but we must also ask how natural man comes to be in his environment, because that is a matter of human interaction with nature as well.
If the Austrian concept of property rights is deduced from nature, then there is something to be gleaned from the obviously natural state of conception, implantation, pregnancy, and offspring. In other words, natural woman also has something to teach about property rights. This, especially given that Locke’s homesteading scenario is almost identical in description to what the fetus does in utero beginning from conception. And Locke developed his scenario without fetal development in mind, since such knowledge was not available at the time.
Now, according to Kinsella, parents… “as the producers of the child, have an objective link to the child’s body that defeats any claims of outsiders (unless the parents sever this link by abusing their position). That is, parents have a better claim to the child than any outsiders, because of their natural link to the child.”
But the objective link parents have in their offspring, doesn’t overrule the objective link the offspring has in itself. A fetus has the greatest claim to itself because it possesses the necessary objective link for self-ownership, and it has a completely unique genetic code further distinguishing itself from its parents.
Now, each parent is a producer of the child and each provides half that genetic code to the fetus. The genetic contribution from the parents, which provides some of the characteristics, features, and aspects shared with the fetus, plus the parents’ activity of production, that is intercourse, is a unique aspect that only the parents have with their particular offspring. The parents, therefore, hold a limited proprietary interest in the fetus because it’s their combined action that creates the opportunity for, and the product of, conception.
The parents’ limited proprietary interest is not only what gives parents their unique rights to their children, but in my estimation is also the distinguishing factor in understanding natural positive rights. Libertarians are generally put off by the idea of positive rights, as they should be. Positive rights are usually discussed in terms of socialist policies – like redistribution of wealth, universal income, or even the idea of the implied social contract and the “citizenship” that allegedly arises from it. These things are offensive to libertarianism because of their violations of human rights via property rights. The only thing we naturally owe each other, in a legal sense, is non-interference, and using force to create unnatural positive rights, as the state attempts to do, as well as certain ethics-based political philosophies, is a violation of the non-aggression principle.
But if I’m right, the very reason why neither the state nor any other human can create unnatural positive rights, is because there is insufficient proprietary interest in these non-parental relationships to establish a basis for positive rights. I’m not the offspring of the state, nor am I the offspring of anyone but my parents. Therefore I don’t owe you a part of my wealth, or a living wage, etc and the state doesn’t have an objective basis from which to claim the authority to force me to. And my parent’s limited proprietary interest fades over time as I’ve matured into a rational actor. We can see then, the pejorative use of the term “nanny state” – a state that creates unnatural positive rights in the name of benevolence and care – is particularly apropos because it’s actually an unjust usurpation of the rights associated with the parent-offspring relationship. Except the nanny state applies it to full-fledged human actors responsible for themselves.
Now, Kinsella also says, “when the child “homesteads” or “appropriates” his own body by establishing the requisite objective link sufficient to establish self-ownership, the child becomes an adult, so to speak, and now has a better claim to his body than his parents.”
I’m going to challenge Kinsella a little here. Kinsella again borrows from Hans Herman Hoppe saying that the child’s ability to say ‘no,’ is the demarcation for the child’s self-ownership, because this is what evolution requires for a child to flee from neglectful parenting. This, however, is erroneous as every parent knows that children will often say ‘no’ to good parenting as well, and so the ability to declare ‘no’ doesn’t translate to the rational use of ‘no’. Here, Kinsella and Hoppe are falling back into the trap of confusing the objective link with the will, an aspect of personhood. (I explained in the previous episode why this is an error).
I suggest the child is a self-owner from the moment of conception, but doesn’t become a full-fledged rational actor until adulthood. I believe this to be the case, first because the zygote has the requisite objective link required for self-ownership (which is also a positive indication of human survival, and is perhaps the better evolutionary requirement than the expressed will, contra Hoppe) and second because the fetus homesteads the mother’s uterus in like manner to John Locke’s homesteading scenario. Fetal development continues to be under the direct and immediate control of the fetus itself.
The embryo, the next stage of development following the zygote stage, uses its energies to take resources it finds from its environment to create the placenta and umbilical cord, which serve the purpose of providing for itself food and shelter. The placenta and umbilical cord is created through the direct and immediate control of the embryo, not the mother, and both have the genetic code of the embryo, not the mother.
All things being equal, the placenta and umbilical cord would be considered, according to Rothbardian property rights, the property of the fetus since the fetus is a self-owner with an objective link in those things.
So, children aren’t property of the parent’s per se, but the parents do have a limited proprietary interest in their children. This idea of having a degree of limited proprietary interest in another human is not novel and is consistent with Rothbardian human rights. Kinsella also points out that when someone violates your rights, you hold a proprietary interest, by way of tort law, or restitution, from that person and that’s a legitimate part of libertarian legal order.
The violinist in Thomson’s thought experiment is an insufficient analogy because the mysterious violinist is not your offspring. You don’t legally owe the violinist anything because there is no proprietary interest sufficient for establishing a natural positive right between you and the Violinist. And while there may be an ethical question concerning leaving someone for dead, property rights give us a clear, unambiguous answer to both the violinist and the fetus. The violinist doesn’t hold the conditions necessary to legally claim a natural positive right against you, but your offspring does. So Thomson’s thought experiment is only valid as it pertains to non-parental human relationships.
Ok, so … the mother may have a proprietary interest in her offspring, which perhaps establishes a natural positive right of the fetus for life-support from the mother, but doesn’t the mother need to consent to provide this life-support anyway? One prolife attempt to solve this confusion is to suggest that a contract exists between mom and baby.
Does pregnancy imply a contract between the mother and her fetus?
Another Rothbardian argument, proposing a “principled compromise” between prolife and prochoice comes from Walter Block, an American Austrian economist and anarcho-capitalist theorist.
Block attempts to soften Rothbard’s claim against the fetus as an invader. Block likens pregnancy to that of a tenant/landlord relationship. He suggests that abortion is a complex idea that involves eviction plus killing. A landlord has a right to evict, but doesn’t have a right to kill. Evictionism, Block claims, doesn’t permit killing a viable fetus, but removing it to a suitable life-supporting environment is permissible. And as technology advances (in the area of artificial wombs, for example) abortion at earlier stages, Block argues, will eventually be violations of the non-aggression principle. Of course, the tenant/landlord relationship is a contractual agreement between consenting human actors. So how well does this argument hold?
Unlike Block, Rothbard argues against the notion that the mother and the fetus are contracted. R Campbell Sproul at Reformed Libertarian makes a case against Rothbard’s understanding of contracts here and it’s worth a read. For the sake of argument, however, I’m going to concede Rothbard’s point and agree that no such contract exists between mother and fetus.
The truth of the matter is that neither the mother nor the fetus voluntarily consent to contract because neither has control over whether conception itself takes place. Though the egg and sperm operate on the biological default of the parents respectively, the actual joining of egg and sperm is outside of the control of all parties involved, and we know this because not only do the vast majority of sperm fail to join with the egg, but neither parent has control over which sperm joins with which egg, with perhaps the exception of in vitro fertilization. But the level of control in in vitro fertilization only strengthens my argument on the whole, as parents are actively, intentionally, and knowingly, creating a new life.
The only act of voluntary consent, in typical cases, is the act of intercourse between the parents. But as any woman struggling with fertility problems will tell you, conception is not something in her direct control. And if we’re honest, women who don’t struggle with fertility problems also lack this control. A woman doesn’t know that conception has taken place until implantation has occurred, roughly one to two weeks after conception when a pregnancy test can be performed. But a positive pregnancy test still doesn’t give us a precise moment of when conception actually occurred anyway.
If she consents to conception, then she must have knowledge of when she gave such consent. And implantation also can’t be the point of contract, because the mother doesn’t have knowledge of when that takes place either. And if the abortion debate has taught us anything, it’s that women can consent to intercourse, and not consent to pregnancy by means of contraception which prevents conception or implantation.
Of course, if the fetus is contracted, it stands to reason that it too must have knowledge of when it gives consent. A Prolife argument for an implied contract between mother and fetus is ultimately problematic and allows for the possibility of legal abortion on the basis of the mother’s withdrawing consent. So this is a bad prolife argument, and Rothbard is right to reject it.
But we still haven’t answered our question; even if the mother owes a natural positive right to her fetus for life support, it seems like the woman loses her agency if she doesn’t have the opportunity to give consent to life support. Libertarianism, in order to hold true, must protect the absolute self-ownership of both the woman and the fetus and not at the expense of each other. So if the woman and fetus can’t consent to conception, we must seek an alternative explanation that doesn’t jeopardize the woman’s agency or violate the fetus’ self-ownership.
So what if we can reconcile the absolute self-ownership of the woman and the fetus by allowing for the possibility of a type communal property?
Hold on to your hats folks, we just that took a left turn at Albuquerque.
Does pregnancy provide for a free market concept of communal property?
Roderick Long, professor of philosophy at Auburn University, also makes an argument for the right to abort. He claims a positive right by the mother to abortion, and this is ultimately based on personhood. Since I’m not dealing with matters of personhood though, I’m not going to address his argument here. However, Long does make a case elsewhere for the possibility of a kind of communal or non-state owned “public” property, which I alluded to in the previous episode, and I think it not only speaks against his own abortion argument, but it lends itself to the right of the fetus to essentially homestead the mother without her explicit consent.
Now, in Long’s defense, he’s arguing for legitimate open spaces of land used by a limited number of people; a lake for example, used by a village for fishing. I’ll leave you to explore his argument, I’ve linked it in the show notes. But I want to apply his ideas to the natural situation of pregnancy.
I intend to develop this further in a later episode, but I want to touch on it here to show its credence. Long points out that in situations where there is no common property, that those who are “property-less … exist only by the sufferance of the ‘Lords of the Earth’.” In other words, that the human propensity to abuse power when it’s available comes into view when speaking of property owners against non-property owners. A woman’s uterus is certainly her property. Assuming the fetus doesn’t own property outside of itself, abortion would still be against Lockean property rights because there is no other place for the fetus to go, and aborting the fetus would be an abuse of the mother’s power as a property owner against the property-less fetus.
Other objections to common property come from Isabel Patterson who posits that two bodies can’t occupy the same space at the same time. But as it turns out, they can and do, as a very common and natural occurrence in human life. We have all occupied the same space at the same time with our own mothers. There is no tragedy of the commons here as pregnancy doesn’t make the mother’s resources available to everyone. They are only available to the fetus, and increases (not decreases) incentive for the mother to replenish her nutritive stores. This shared property between mother and fetus eventually reverts back to the mother without force being involved. And it’s in Long’s argument here, that we can assure both mother’s absolute self-ownership alongside her fetus’ absolute self-ownership. Not to mention that the very act of intercourse results in a product of combined effort. Both parents’ can claim a proprietary interest to a single offspring, and this is indeed one of many communal-like characteristics, features, and aspects shared between parents and offspring.
The idea that mother and baby have some degree of communal property removes some requirement for consent, but I don’t believe we’ve reached the ultimate answer to this question. So let’s look at the final piece of the puzzle.
The nature of responsibility & obligation
Robert Lefevre, also from the Mises Institute, describes the difference between responsibility and obligation which lends itself well to my assertion that the fetus holds certain natural positive rights against the mother. The Latin prefix re- (in responsibility) points backwards to an action you took. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions. Obligation is to look forward to an action that has yet to take place. But you must voluntarily incur the obligation. To have someone else force an obligation on you is unjust. So how does this lend itself to my claim of natural positive rights against the mother?
In typical cases, it’s the combined action of the parents that create the opportunity for conception. It is well-established that a natural consequence of intercourse may be conceiving a new life. It’s also well-established that precautionary measures to prevent conception can and do fail. So both adults are assuming a degree of risk in the act of intercourse; that risk being the natural consequence of conception which may indeed take place despite all efforts to prevent it. And since we can be assured that one reliable consequence of intercourse is in fact conception, then adults in a free society, who willingly engage in intercourse, must take responsibility for the outcome. While we are free to choose our non-violent actions, we are not free from the consequences of those actions.
I am not making a moral case here. Self-ownership necessitates responsibility. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it’s zygote’s responsibility to get itself implanted into the lining of the uterus and create the placenta and umbilical cord, because this is under the control of the zygote. When we neglect our responsibility, we relinquish the corresponding freedom. If we claim our self-ownership gives us the ability to choose to engage in intercourse, then entailed in that ability to choose is the assumed responsibility for whatever consequences result from engaging in such action. In other words, we cannot make the claim that we are not responsible for the creation of our offspring, because we assume the risk in the one very action that guarantees the probability that offspring will be created. And since our action can result in a product that also has an absolute right of self-ownership, but is yet vulnerable to our power, we are thus also obligated, by no one else but ourselves, to at least provide a life-support alternative suitable to guaranteeing the offspring’s rights they hold against us as their parents.
Consequences do not require our consent to intrude upon our lives; and the proprietary interest unique to the parent-offspring relationship obligates parental provision of life-support, or its suitable alternatives.
So referring back to Rothbard via Thomson’s Violinist, he claims: If you weren’t connected by choice, then you aren’t legally obligated to remain connected, and therefore ought to have a legal right to disconnect yourself. But, as I’ve demonstrated, the mother’s connection to her offspring does not require specific consent because 1) she is responsible for the consequences of her actions 2) the product of her action is another self-owner with certain communal aspects, and 3) the limited proprietary interest in her fetus is sufficient for establishing natural positive rights for life-support, which naturally fades over time.
What prevents us from denying these things?
The advantage of deducing rights from nature, rather than ethics, is that it creates incontestable axioms. You can’t deny them, without implicitly affirming them in your denial. Allow me to demonstrate:
Axiom 1: We cannot deny self-ownership of the fetus without denying our own self-ownership.
A woman who claims ownership of the zygote’s body cannot deny the objective link and it’s special status, since the woman also necessarily presupposes her own objective link and it’s special status in her own case. In other words, because she presumes her own self ownership, by way of her direct and immediate control over herself, then she is estopped from claiming the zygote’s body as hers because 1) her body does not have direct and immediate control over the zygote AND 2) the zygote does have direct and immediate control over itself. Now, she may have an indirect and remote control in the sense that the zygote is vulnerable to her decisions, but this is not the sufficient condition for her to claim determination of the rights of her offspring.
This is why a slave owner is never really an owner of slaves; because his “ownership” is indirect and remote, much in the same way the mother’s control is over the fetus. Therefore, any claims of ownership over another’s body is a misuse of power as Long alludes to.
Axiom 2: We can’t make claims against human life, without denying our own life.
Thomson’s violinist and Warren’s potential person are claims that argue against the case of a so-called “right to life” because such a right is ambiguous. To what end does one have a right to life? Certainly not to the extent that a natural man can force others to keep him alive while he fails to take responsibility for his own life. While an unqualified claim of ‘right to life’ may indeed be ambiguous, and prolife advocates fail to properly qualify it, Rothbard himself provides the necessary qualification for a libertarian understanding of ‘right to life,’ in his book, the Ethics of Liberty:
“Now, any person participating in any sort of discussion, … is, by virtue of so participating, alive and affirming life. For if he were really opposed to life, he would have no business continuing to be alive. Hence, the supposed opponent of life is really affirming it in the very process of discussion, and hence the preservation and furtherance of one’s life takes on the stature of an incontestable axiom.4“
In other words, we are estopped from making claims against the life of other humans, including the unborn, by virtue of the fact that we ourselves are humans who make claims affirming our own life, simply by existing. But a libertarian right-to-life, grounded in nature, is limited 1) to the negative right of non-interference (with the exception of legitimate self-defense) and 2) to the limited natural positive right to life-support offspring hold against their parents, which fade over time.
Axiom 3: We can’t deny the inherent rights of the fetus, without denying them in our own case.
Libertarians specifically are further estopped from claiming the decision to abort be left to the mother, because we presuppose our rights are inherent in our own case, rather than given to us by an outside source. But, if the mother holds the decision making power over whether to recognize fetal self-ownership or not, then our rights are not inherent – they are bequeathed to us by our mothers. This in itself falsifies libertarianism as it would then necessarily be authoritarian, not-to-mention matriarchical.
Remember, if the entire structure of human rights – expressed in terms of property rights – can be articulated by libertarianism, and that structure is deduced from nature, then libertarianism cannot defer to the woman’s choice on abortion. We are estopped from doing so.
What about rape?
You’ll notice that I’ve not discussed rape. I’ve done this on purpose because I don’t believe I can do justice to the topic of abortion and rape by simply offering anecdotal rebuttals. I think this topic deserves far more attention and so I’ll be discussing rape and violence against women in an upcoming episode. But I will say this, so long as libertarians support abortion, then women cannot hope to see justice from rape in a libertarian society. The availability of abortion in the market, actually diminishes the salience of rape as it denies the absolute self-ownership of both women and the unborn. Put in economic terms, abortion lowers the cost of raping a woman because it bypasses the responsibility of the rapist and his actions.
All I’ve done up to this point is to show that the zygote is a legitimate self-owner, according to libertarian principles set forth by Rothbard, and that the nature of property rights identifies a limited proprietary interest between mother and child, that involves natural positive rights owed by the mother to the fetus, and that she holds a legitimate responsibility to fulfill those positive rights.
I have not argued for the personhood of the zygote, nor have I argued that the fetus at any stage is a full-fledged rational actor. What I have done, is demonstrated how libertarianism is arguably a necessarily prolife philosophy. So why haven’t libertarian thinkers already come to this conclusion? The thing that all previous libertarian thinkers have not considered, is how natural woman acts in her environment, and how this creates the unique status of offspring. The fetus is not only a product of human action, but it’s the only product to come equipped with its own basic rights which develop over time.
Understanding the property rights concerning pregnancy and the fetus allows us to get a clearer perspective on the legal nature of abortion as well as human rights overall. Couching abortion in terms of “reproductive rights,” rather than property rights, actually erodes human rights. We confuse what rights really are when we categorize them in ways other than property rights. By doing this, we inevitably curtail real rights believing them to be relative rather than absolute.
According to Rothbard:
Libertarianism can unambiguously identify human rights through the articulation of the entire structure of property rights. This is accomplished through the deduction of man’s interactions with nature, which is obtained, and therefore inescapably true. The absolute self-ownership of humans is a primordial fact, true from the beginning of human history. We can then avoid conflict in questions of human rights by identifying the property owners, or the self-owners, in any given case.
Using Rothbard’s methodology, we can reason that the fetus is a self-owner, and we can verify this by appealing to the striking parallel between natural man in his environment and the fetus in its natural environment. Applied consistently, we can conclude the fetus is an absolute self-owner, with both a basic negative right to non-interference, and a natural positive right from its mother (and it’s father) for life-support, or found a suitable alternative, and the mother has a legal responsibility, in the libertarian sense, to do this for her offspring.
Finally, Is abortion an act of aggression?
I will be delving into this topic more in depth in the next episode, but if aggression is the act of initiating violence against person or property, and violence is a behavior involving physical force that damages or kills someone or something, then abortion, which kills a fetus, is an act of aggression and is therefore a rights violation; a crime in the libertarian sense.
But wait a minute .. In the first of this series, I argued against criminalizing abortion. So how do I reconcile this? If you recall from the first episode, I argued against the immediate criminalization of abortion and I gave a series of logical reasonings. This does not mean that abortion should never be considered criminal. But unlike murder, or theft, which has had an uncontested criminal status throughout human history, (with the exception of the applicability of these crimes to the state), abortion has not been an uncontestable crime, and has enjoyed legal status for 45+ years in America and for extended times throughout human history. But it’s specifically our recent history that has shifted the paradigm of the culture. Before we can correct the legal error, it is necessary to create a paradigm shift that re-establishes a factual basis in the culture to reject abortion as a suitable response to unwanted pregnancies. Remember, rights don’t exist because men have created laws.
Creating authoritarian laws, which don’t accurately assign property rights concerning the woman and the fetus, will not protect the rights of the fetus – that’s not how rights work. Authoritarian laws will continue to compromise the moral nuances as they continue to ignore accurately assigned property rights. This is why incrementalist policies fail; they continually fail to understand property rights and their accurate assignments. While it’s true that rights are inherent and absolute, regardless of who chooses to recognize them or not, in order to come to a place where a free society recognizes abortion as a rights violation, a paradigm shift must occur first. At bare minimum, prolife advocates need to understand property rights, and prochoice advocates need to understand how the free market will mitigate the reasons women give for seeking abortions.
I have only just begun to unravel this knot. Future Dare to Think episodes will delineate how libertarians, both prolife and prochoice, are poised for making the paradigm shift towards life.
But first, I want to discuss the concept of anarchism and polycentric legal order with Gary Chartier. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing him on this topic, and will be publishing that interview in two weeks.
Thanks for listening to my podcast! Add your thoughts and comments by contacting me below, or you can interact with me and my patrons by becoming a premium member at patreon.com/kerrybaldwin.
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