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Presenting the pro-life case to libertarians, and the libertarian case to pro-lifers

A note to members of the Libertarian Party

A note to members of the Libertarian Party, earlier versions of which were distributed at the 1996 and 1998 LP Conventions, both held in Washington, D.C.

I’m Doris Gordon, Delegate from Maryland. Some of you know me only in connection with Libertarians for Life, but I was known first in the Libertarian Party for other libertarian activities. In 1967, I co-founded Students of Objectivism, a Washington, D.C.-area study group that met monthly in my home. In 1973, I helped organize the Maryland LP.

As a member of the Association of Libertarian Feminists, I helped publicize its panel at the 1976 convention, and it was covered by NBC-TV. I was an anti-draft activist and argued vigorously at the 1975 LP convention in New York that we recognize that draft evaders and other war resisters should be exonerated. I wrote letters and did television editorial replies on this and other issues. I also did drudge work, such as stuffing envelopes and gathering signatures so that the party could get on the ballot.

When I joined the Libertarian Party, I supported abortion choice. It was only in 1976, seventeen years after I read Atlas Shrugged and nine years of reconsidering abortion choice, that I became pro-life. It was at the September 1976 national LP convention, also held in Washington, D.C., that I founded Libertarians for Life.

Why did I start LFL?

By 1976, I had invested a lot of myself in libertarianism, and I wanted to build on my investment. But at that national convention, certain people said things to me on abortion that astounded me. If I was correct and they wrong, then something was terribly amiss. I didn’t just worry, I decided to do something about this. I rounded up libertarians with expertise in such fields as biology, philosophy, Constitutional law, and religion. We examined the arguments made by both sides very carefully. If any of LFL’s arguments are wrong, we want to know why. If you think your arguments for abortion choice can overcome LFL’s arguments, I want to know them. We continually examine and re-examine the arguments on both sides of the debate.

Toward this end, LFL has written and published numerous articles, most of which are available on our Web site: Our articles lay out in detail the central issues in the pro-life libertarian case: the definition of “person,” the co-existence of life and rights from the moment we are conceived until the moment we die, what the non-aggression principle implies for the unalienable rights and obligations of parents and children, the proper function of government, and who did what to whom. Our argumentation is logical, consistent, and comprehensible.

Debating the issues

LFL doesn’t merely assert positions; we demonstrate how we arrive at them. Abortion choicers have the intellectual obligation to take libertarian pro-life arguments on their merits — and disprove them on their merits. Of course, both sides have the intellectual obligation of proof. I would not want the LP to take a pro-life stand, if it had the votes but no sound reasoning to support it. No position on any issue should be in the platform of the Party of Principle unless the party can show it to be well-grounded.

In the spirit of the motto “Question Authority,” I’ve made it my thing since 1976 to question the Libertarian Party. If abortion choice is libertarian, then why hasn’t the LP published a substantial defense and explanation of it? Is it because it has none to offer? I think so.

The libertarian meaning of “pro-choice” has been destroyed; it’s become a code word for “abortion” and an ambiguous political slogan used even by statists. Let’s be careful lest the non-aggression principle also become a mere slogan.

Doris Gordon (1929-2014)
Doris Gordon, founder and longtime coordinator of Libertarians for Life, died on July 7 at Holy Cross Hospital, Silver Spring, Md., after a struggle with meningitis and other health problems. She was 85. Surviving her are daughter Julie Gordon, son Monte Gordon, and five grandchildren. She lost her husband, Nathan Gordon, in 1987. A Bronx native, Mrs. Gordon graduated from Hunter College and taught elementary-school students in New York City before moving to Maryland. She became active in the libertarian movement, and eventually quite active against abortion. She stressed the concept of parental obligation. “By causing children to be,” she wrote, “parents also cause them to need support; it’s a package deal.”