A Note on Libertarianism and Abortion

Tibor R. Machan

His pro-life abortion stance has only been a remote problem for Representative Ron Paul and only with some libertarians. Here is why:

If a conceptus or zygote has the rights of a human infant–especially the right to life, so that no one may end its life, including the pregnant woman carrying–then the issue is not a matter of a strictly private decision. If I have an infant in my home I have no right to end its life, not unless it is a direct, unambiguous threat to my own life (like a violent intruder would be).

Self-defense would be the only justification for having an abortion. Otherwise terminating a pregnancy with the result of the death of the zygote would amount to homicide, possibly out and out murder. And anything along those lines opens the matter to a criminal inquiry, which is certainly invasive and contrary to what libertarians consider justified by law enforcement agencies. So it is clear that the pro-life position has problems with the libertarian stance that a government or a law enforcement agency must stay out of one’s life, including the life of a pregnant woman.

The pro-choice stance doesn’t have this problem since it generally doesn’t recognize a zygote as in possession of the right to life. Zygotes are potential but not actual human beings, although they are, of course, human zygotes! But being that they do not have the rights of, say, babies or infants.

Now accordingly a pro-life position such as that of Ron Paul has altogether too much statism involved in it. Government or law enforcement would be authorized to defend the zygote from anyone who would choose to destroy it; even its accidental death, as in a miscarriage, would arguably be subject to legal scrutiny, as would that of any human infant.

While Ron Paul is relatively silent about his stance on these matters, should he become a serious presidential candidate, with prospects of reaching the White House, the surrounding issues could not be avoided. They should not be! Sadly, I do not believe anyone associated with Dr. Paul has fully addressed these matters.