Can a libertarian be pro life?

TAMPA, May 20, 2012 – Thanks to Ron Paul’s extraordinary presidential campaign, libertarianism is arguably getting its best hearing in decades. It’s catching on, especially with young people. While baby boomers prepare to retire and devour Social Security and Medicare to the bone, the generations succeeding them realize that they will be stuck with the bill for these financially insolvent social programs, along with an unsustainable foreign policy.

Proceeding from its central tenet of non-aggression, libertarianism sees government the way Thomas Paine did. “Even in its best state, [it] is but a necessary evil.” Some libertarians think Paine was only half right. Either way, a libertarian government would do far less and cost far less than the one we have now.

Ron Paul has presented one of the purest libertarian platforms of any presidential candidate in U.S. history. Paul absolutely refuses to consider preemptive war and wants to “march right out” of the Middle East, Germany, Japan and Korea. He doesn’t just want to reform Social Security and Medicare; he wants to let younger workers opt completely out.

He wants to end the drug war and pardon all non-violent drug offenders. He wants to repeal the Patriot Act and subsequent “war on terror” legislation.

Paul doesn’t pitch a watered down version of libertarianism to avoid ruffling feathers within his party. When asked about a federal prohibition on gay marriage, Paul responds that the government should get out of the marriage business altogether, even at the state level, except for enforcing marriage agreements like any other contract.

However, there are a few issues where Paul’s libertarianism has been questioned. The most consequential in terms of political impact is his stance on abortion. Paul is staunchly pro-life.

Some have said this violates the basic tenets of libertarianism. The government cannot be allowed to dictate what an individual does regarding her own body. All libertarian theory is rooted in property rights and the most basic, fundamental property right is self-ownership. This precedes modern libertarianism. John Locke, the philosopher that inspired Thomas Jefferson, established this principle before the right to any other kind of property.

“Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”

The progressive pro-choice argument rests firmly upon this foundation. A woman owns her body and has sole dominion over what occurs within it. While progressives generally go on to violate this principle with their support for government regulation of virtually every other decision one makes with one’s body, they are very libertarian on this issue.

Or are they?

While libertarian theory is built upon property rights, it also recognizes a natural limit to the exercise thereof. That limit is what Locke called, “the law of nature,” which is that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

Based upon this limit, the woman’s rights would seem to end before she can bring harm to the fetus. Yet, libertarians recognize that everyone has a right to forcibly remove an unwanted person from his or her property. What is the libertarian answer?

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4 thoughts on “Can a libertarian be pro life?

  1. William Schooler

    Not all answers are simple, but this one is a simple answer but a very rough decision. The question is; do you support life or the destruction of life? For those of us who love living the answer is only one, to do the actions of supporting life. All actions come about by choice and the ideas we carry around with us.

    So to create life takes two choices doesn’t it, by two different people by actions of sex. The idea of having sex can be a healthy one, but the idea of having sex with no consideration for life is a question we all need to ask ourselves. We have to decide to have the act and we have to consider it will possibly create a life unless we take measures not to create the life. This too is a choice to make and it is also a responsibility to life is it not? The act of making life only to destroy life is what? and act against yourself, so is this a good action or a stupid action?

    Then we have the women who decide for what ever reason not to carry such a life and abort. For those who do this is not easy decision knowing full well what it does and they carry this act for the rest of their lives and not without issue because it comes up several times. But then their are those who have them over and over and over again with no thought of life at all. Is this respect for life or total neglect for life?

    But how many actually look at living as LIFE? You know the doing part, the idea creation part, that decision making capability part? Not that many and does that make the difference to be a Libertarian or not? Libertarian is an idea as well people decide on and Liberty does support life in the actions of holding itself free from oppression by taking measures against those imposing such acts.

    A Great way to look at this is LIFE is everywhere we are, we should learn to cherish and respect all life and the ideas and decisions of support of ourselves as in self respect for us as LIFE, the doers of this world, the creations of this world, the imaginations of this world should we decide to be because WE are this capable by choice.

    The neglect for ourselves as life is a downfall not a strength and comes only from recognition and the discovery of ourselves period, also known as growth of self.

  2. Claire M

    Forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term is in some ways akin to forcing a person to donate bone marrow, blood or even a kidney, if refusing to do so might cause someone else to die.. Childbirth is no picnic, and gestating and birthing a child can in some cases harm the mother’s health and can even kill her. I think a woman should be free to choose whether or not she wants to go through pregnancy and childbirth… You might argue that a baby in the womb is different from a stranger who might need one’s kidney, because the mother in question has a parental responsibility toward the baby, but if a woman can choose to give a baby up for adoption, why should she be bound by parental responsibility before the birth?

    On the other hand, many fetuses are aborted past the gestational age of 20 weeks, when they might in fact be able to live outside the womb. Dr Paul talks about so called “abortions” where after the procedure a living baby is left to die of exposure in the corner of an operating room. In order to get around this problem, late term abortions often involve deliberately killing the fetus by crushing or spearing his or her brain when he/she is almost out of, but still technically inside the mother. To me, either of these actions amount to murder. In fact, I would go so far as to say that by the time a fetus’ brain and central nervous system are developed enough to feel pain, it is too late to hack away at it, or to attack it in any way.

    Here’s my solution: Ideally, abortion should be legal up to a certain week of pregnancy (probably around week 6). After that point doctors should be able to extract the fetus unharmed (ie without chopping it to bits or driving a spike through his/her brain) and then give any live-born baby that comes out the same care as any other baby born in that hospital.

    I apologize for the grizzly tone of this comment, but what bothers me most about abortion is all the denial that surrounds it. I think some parents think they can make an inconvenient pregnancy, or a fetus with Downs syndrome just disappear. But that’s not what really happens. Maybe if more people had to face this fact– to really face the consequences of their decisions, they would not choose abortion.

  3. Irene

    Life begins at conception. I have 2 children, no abortions. If I had the choice to spend 9 months and go through childbirth again, I would certainly choose that over abortion. Abortion is a violent selfish act of murder that harms the mental and physical health of the mother and causes great pain to and ends the life of her child (see Silent Scream). There will be no life, liberty nor pursuit of happiness for either one. Those who acknowledge their mistake and seek forgiveness are the only ones who will receive any measure of peace.

  4. David

    Simple answer. Sure a woman has the right to choose, but if you choose to MURDER someone you should go to jail. I don’t think we need abortion laws because murder covers it. If a woman chooses to take the risk of getting pregnant and does than it’s no longer just about her. There is another life involved and you cannot simply choose to kill that life…it’s murder.


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