Libertarianism, Abortion, and Fetal Self-Ownership (1 of 2)

Libertarianism, Abortion, and Fetal Self-Ownership (1 of 2)

by Kerry Baldwin | Dare to Think

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Show Notes

Libertarianism, Abortion, and Fetal Self-Ownership (1 of 2)

In this episode of Dare to Think, I explore the Rothbardian-libertarian view of self-ownership, and see if it applies to the fetus.

Abortion series episodes:

Join me, Kerry Baldwin, as we Dare to Think, about Libertarianism, Abortion, and Fetal Self-Ownership.

I’ve been exploring and challenging today’s prochoice/prolife paradigm surrounding the abortion debate. If you’re just joining my podcast for the first time, please listen to the previous episodes. I discussed the major problems with both sides of the abortion debate already. I’ll link those in the show notes. This episode comes on the heels of NY making abortion legal up to the point birth, the VA governor defending infanticide of newborns, and on the cusp of NM legislatures entertaining legislation to criminalize doctors who REFUSE to perform abortions. Meanwhile, prolife rhetoric focuses on passing legislation criminalizing abortion, by charging women who abort with 1st degree murder. Is this what this polarized topic has come to? A race to see who can criminalize their opponents, first? As a libertarian, I’ve seen a fair share of polarized disagreement here too, with many libertarians proclaiming that we’re “pro-choice in everything.” But I want to challenge the notion that libertarianism, as a legal theory, supports the right to abort, and maybe this can contribute something new to the abortion debate that begin to diffuse the conflict between both sides.

The content for this episode is twice the length I’d prefer to have these episodes be, so I’ve split it into two episodes. The first half, published today deals with the question of whether the fetus is a self-owner, and therefore has negative right to non-interference. The second half deals with the question of whether the fetus has a natural positive right against the mother to provide life support.

As always, the resources and manuscript for this episode are available for download from my website, at 

My analysis of the abortion debate so far has only addressed the ethical and praxeological perspectives. In other words, they only focus on human action and whether we ought to consider certain actions to be immoral. But because this issue involves a question of human rights, we must say more on it. So far, libertarians have stated that you can be either prochoice or prolife, but have taken the position of defaulting to the woman’s choice when it comes to the legality of abortion. And certainly prolife and prochoice libertarians have common ground in that we agree abortion shouldn’t be subsidized by tax payers. But if libertarians cannot provide a consistent answer concerning the rights of women and the fetus, then libertarianism will suffer the same self-defeat that the progressive pro-choice view suffers.

Libertarianism isn’t an ethical theory, however. It’s primarily a legal theory. So even though we can undeniably establish that abortion is an unethical human action, in order for libertarianism to take a stance, we must objectively show it to be criminal. In other words, we must show that abortion is an act of aggression against another self-owner, namely the fetus.

To do this, we must establish that the new human life at conception is a rights-bearing individual (as distinct from the broader concept of personhood), and that abortion is a form of aggression.

Episode Resources:

Manuscript for episode can be found at:

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You can find more of Kerry’s articles and podcasts on her website,
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Kerry Baldwin |  

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