A common misconception that many Americans have regarding libertarianism is that it is an inherently pro-choice movement—pro-choice on economic, foreign, domestic, and social affairs. Though the divisive issue of abortion is often disputed among Libertarian Party members, it is in no way hypocritical to be a pro-life libertarian, as some suggest. However, it is hypocritical for a libertarian to profess liberty-oriented ideals while simultaneously denying liberty to the most vulnerable of our nation’s people: our children.
Constitutional rights include all people.
“If abortion is merely about women’s rights, then where were mine?” — Gianna Jessen, survivor of saline abortion attempt
The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees “equal protections under the law.” Our very own founding document states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, [and] that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Why, then, is it illegal to take the life of one human, but not one who has simply not yet left the womb? Does the value of life depend solely on temporary convenience?
To address and answer these questions, one must first ask themselves:
“When does life begin?”
Contrary to what the pro-abortion movement would like you to think, this is not a subjective question. This is not a religious question. This is not a moral question, nor is it a question that is up to interpretation. This is a solely scientific question. On all scientific, biological, and objective grounds, human life begins at conception.
The human fetus meets all criteria for the seven characteristics of life: cellular composition, different levels of organization, energy usage, environmental response, growth, reproduction, and adaptation. Science is clear: the fetus is a living human. To claim that someone becomes alive only after it has left the womb of the mother is delusional, and it is purely subjective and intellectually dishonest to pick-and-choose when somebody deserves basic human rights. Libertarians must recognize the rights of all people, for the sake of constitutional and philosophical consistency.
The NAP is violated.
Abortion is the ultimate violation of the Non-Aggression Principle, which is the general moral guideline for libertarian and anarcho-capitalist ideologies alike—the belief that individuals cannot initiate harm or force against another, unless harm is initiated first. Fetuses in the womb are innocent. Pro-life libertarianism is most in line with this general rule of thumb.
Some may say that the fetus is violating the NAP by harming the mother, when in over 99% of cases, this is not true. Abortions that occur due to the mother’s life being in danger accounts for less than .01% of abortions, and even so, a C-section in nearly all cases is a safer alternative.
“As an OB-GYN physician for 31 years, [I have never encountered a] medical situation that requires aborting/killing in the third trimester to ‘save the mother’s life.’ Just deliver the baby by C-section, and the baby has a 95+% chance of survival with readily available NICU care even at 28 weeks. C-section is a quicker and safer than partial birth abortion for the mother.” — Lawrence K. Koning, MD, FACOG
To say that a fetus is harming the mother is not taking into account that the mother and father both created it. A pro-choice libertarian essentially asserts that killing a human life somehow does not constitute as harming it. They fail to acknowledge the bodily autonomy of the innocent, and they fail to acknowledge the responsibility of the mother to care for the innocent life that she has helped create. How can you punish a child for existing, when it didn’t ask to be conceived? The parents are responsible for the child’s conception.
If libertarians seek to be consistent, then the NAP should apply to all lives and cases; as should the principle of self-responsibility.
How, then, should libertarians approach this issue?
Pro-life libertarianism is unique in its approach to achieving victory. The pro-life cause is seen not solely as a legislative movement; rather, it is seen just as much a cultural and societal movement. We want to not only change the laws to recognize the rights and liberties of all people, but also change the hearts and minds of individuals—especially those of the women who face this heart-wrenching matter.
In a study from the Elliot Institute, 64% of women reported to have felt “pressured” or “coerced” into their abortion. Women need to be supported, cared for, and know that abortion is not the only option. Encouraging private donations towards charities like crisis pregnancy centers, women’s health care clinics, and adoption funds is an effective means to promote our movement.
“For too long we have viewed the issue as purely political, but no political victory can change a degraded society. No Supreme Court ruling by itself can instill a greater respect for life.” — Ron Paul, former U.S. Representative
In order for the libertarian movement to be consistent in its philosophy of liberty, personal responsibility, and freedom, they cannot forget the most vulnerable. We need to unite to defend the liberty of all humans, born and unborn.