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

The 2000 National LP Convention — A Personal Report

I’ve gone to every national LP convention since 1975, except one. My special concern at the 2000 convention was on pro-life and children’s rights issues, as it has been at previous conventions.
I had barely finalized my travel arrangements to Anaheim in late June, when George Getz, the LP’s Press Secretary, asked me if I was going. Jane Chastain, a Los Angeles radio talk show host, wanted me as her guest because of my organization, Libertarians for Life. She later requested that I report on what positions the five presidential contenders held on abortion. I scrambled to get statements from them, but on the air, she focused on Harry Browne’s. I also reported on what’s new in the LP platform regarding two planks, “Women’s Rights and Abortion” (WR&A) and “Families and Children.” The convention had accepted these changes by air time, 5:30 p.m., Friday, June 30.

The Presidential Contenders on Abortion

Harry Browne made my task as reporter easy. Grabbing my notepad, he gave me a written statement, signed and dated, to read on the air: “I am opposed to abortion at any stage, but I have very little faith in the ability of government to provide a satisfactory, lasting solution to any social problem.” “What about on the state level?” I asked him. I also reported his verbal reply to me: “I would not want abortion illegal on the state level, because I see no point to it.” Chastain wondered if he also saw no point to outlawing the murder of born people.

Don Gorman was terse: “Abortion is like a third rail — stay away from it.” Jacob Hornberger was terser: “No comment.” A David Hollist handout said, “Although you probably know that your life began when two cells united, do you know that people who create a nation are continuing a long history of things that unite? Atoms unite and form a molecule; molecules unite and form a cell; cells unite and form a person…” Verbally, Hollist told me, “The female should be able to separate from her offspring at any time she chooses.” A Barry Hess handout said, “We hold that abortion is not a matter over which the federal government has any authority under the Constitution and that it is a matter explicitly reserved to the conscience of the individual and the State, respectively.” It added, “We hold that all life is sacred, and that the point of its’ [sic] origin is indeterminate, therefore each citizen should defer to prudence to protect life from its’ [sic] conception.” After the convention, I asked Art Olivier, Browne’s running mate, for his position. He said: “The Constitution does not address abortion. According to the tenth amendment, the Federal government should make no laws making abortion illegal, nor should they stop the states from regulating abortions. Roe v. Wade was judicial activism.”

I question such interpretations of the Constitution, but perhaps we can discuss this another time.

The Two Platform Planks

The Platform Committee convened June 28, two days before the official convention opening. LP members can submit proposals to amend the platform to PlatCom before the meeting. However, only PlatCom members can move to have them considered at the meeting. On the floor of the convention, delegates can also move to amend. I submitted testimony against abortion (which included the 1994 MdLP Central Committee’s resolution favoring deletion of abortion choice from the national platform), for children’s rights, and against the death penalty. The last failed in committee. In 1998, PlatCom voted to delete abortion choice, i.e., for having the party itself take no position, but this failed on the floor for lack of time to consider it. The change accepted by PlatCom in 2000 was more modest: delete from the second paragraph of WR&A what others later called a “laundry list,” namely:

We oppose all restrictions on the sale of RU 486, and on the sale of menstruation-inducing contragestive pills, which block fertilized eggs from attaching themselves to the womb. We oppose legislation restricting or subsidizing women’s access to abortion or other reproductive health services; this includes requiring consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, and mandatory indoctrination on fetal development, as well as Medicaid or any other taxpayer funding.

PlatCom also deleted from WR&A, “It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.” But it left its condemnations of state-funded and state-mandated abortions.

Five PlatCom members sent a Minority Report to the floor favoring restoration of the “laundry list,” but it failed. Then, much to my surprise, someone moved to reinsert “It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.” I learned later, to my greater surprise, that it was Katie O’Brien, a volunteer escort for Planned Parenthood at abortion clinics. The revised plank was accepted, 292 to 105, much more than the two-thirds needed to pass. The second paragraph in WR&A now reads:

Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question. We condemn state-funded and state-mandated abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.

Lest anyone think I see this watering down of rhetoric as a pro-life win, I’m not thrilled. The platform’s position is substantially the same as it has been since 1974. Officially, the LP still unconditionally supports keeping all lethal methods of abortion legal until full birth.

The platform had a “Children’s Rights” plank for years, but in 1996, the convention deleted it. Various problems in it seemed too complex to resolve on the floor, e.g., where it said, “Children are human beings and as such have all the rights of human beings.” Does this mean, one delegate objected, that a four-year-old has the right to pack a loaded pistol in his pocket? In 1998, an attempt in PlatCom to rewrite failed, but Henry Haller drafted a new “Families and Children” plank for 2000. I suggested some modifications, and after making some others, PlatCom accepted the plank. Passed by a voice vote on the floor, the platform now says, “A child is a human being and, as such, deserves to be treated justly.” It also says, “Parents have no right to abandon or recklessly endanger their children. Whenever they are unable or unwilling to raise their children, they have the obligation to find other person(s) willing to assume guardianship.” On this, I had something to cheer about. I worked for over fifteen years to get such positions on children’s rights into the platform. The entire 2000 platform is accessible at platform.

A Fun Trip!

My newly redecorated room was near the pool — and this time, I had my swimsuit, and I could sunbathe. I renewed old acquaintances and made some new ones. Even my flights going and coming were fun. My seatmates wanted to talk about the LP. One passenger in the lounge hailed me when he spotted my carryall with C-Span and LP convention information on it. But there’s always something. I landed at BWI airport at 12:10 a.m. I telephoned my van service as directed, but they didn’t come in the promised 10 minutes. I repeated my phone calls, and they repeated their promise. The airport kept getting darker and more deserted, but finally, a nice baggage clerk for Southwest Airlines helped me find another van.

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.”