Presenting the pro-life case to libertarians, and the libertarian case to pro-lifers
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Libertarianism is Pro-Life: An Introduction

Libertarianism is a political philosophy only

Libertarianism does not seek to embrace matters of the soul. It is unlike religion, secular ethical philosophies, or the beliefs of fraternal orders or civic associations, but it is compatible with them. As a philosophy of liberty, its concern is not with the details of how we should live our daily lives. It is a framework for governing our relations with one another regarding our individual rights. It is simply a prohibition against the initiation of force.

Libertarians believe that large intrusive governments do not serve the public well. Much needs to be done to free up positive social forces all but smothered by big government. This process would legalize many activities presently banned, but this in no way implies an advocacy of them. Living in a society which is increasingly politicized, this point is often difficult to grasp. People have gotten the notion that everything good should be compulsory, and everything bad, forbidden. This attitude is counterproductive; for example, it encourages moral lassitude. When people believe that everything which is morally wrong should be prohibited, soon large numbers of people will conclude that anything legal must be morally permissible.

We who are libertarians believe that human beings have the right of dominion over their own lives. We have the inalienable right to live in any manner we choose — so long as our choices do not forcibly interfere with the rights of others.

A few implications of libertarianism

In the economic arena, libertarianism implies an opposition to all laws that prevent or circumscribe our ability to buy, sell, or contract with anyone who chooses to deal with us. We have the right to the peaceable use and disposition of all that we acquire by non-coercive means.

This is also true where financial gain is not a factor. In the realm of social or personal activities, we uphold the right of individuals to exercise any peaceable behavior, including what many consider culturally outrageous and morally reprehensible. It is for this reason that we oppose all anti-vice laws, laws without identifiable, flesh and blood victims. These would include laws against gambling, ingesting drugs, and behavior that may be considered sexually deviant.

Anti-vice legislation is usually thought of as a concern of conservatives. But there is another aspect of social and/or personal freedom that liberals seek to prohibit. Legal sanctions against this type of freedom are usually termed “social engineering.” This includes laws against discrimination as well as laws that seek to mandate egalitarianism (e.g., the “melting pot” justification for public schooling). Libertarians oppose all such legislative tinkering. We believe in voluntary association.

Political freedom does not permit aggression

Libertarianism is not simply a litany of liberties. Freedom without responsibility towards others is license, not libertarianism. There is no right to rape, to steal, or to imperil another’s life by driving carelessly. Aggression against others is criminal behavior. All libertarians concede that everyone has the right to control his or her own body. Pro-life libertarians recognize that this right does not countenance injury to an unborn human being.

Abortion is the ultimate aggression: homicide

Abortion isn’t a vice; it’s homicide. Conception begins a process of biological development that leads to the maturing of a human being. Personhood (the state of being by which we have rights, including the right not to be killed) is not acquired along the way. It inheres in the human being from conception.

The claim has been made that despite the personhood of the unborn, pregnant women are justified in evicting them from their bodies by virtue of their right to control their own bodies. But as a matter of biology, the unborn are separate, individual human beings. They are not a part of their mother’s body, despite their dependence upon her. Furthermore, they aren’t intruders. They are brought into existence by forces outside of their control. Their parents, however, seldom can plead this defense. Whether on purpose or out of negligence, their actions are responsible for the creation of their unborn. And having brought these developing human beings into existence, under principles of individual liberty, they are responsible for their care and provision for the duration of their dependency.

Bruce Earnheart

Published March 1, 1999, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

Bruce Earnheart