Scott Tibbs
February 7th, 1999

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Can someone be libertarian and pro-life?

In the debate over abortion, many abortion rights advocates have said that opposition to legalized abortion is inconsistent with the conservative/libertarian philosophy of limited government. They argue that legalized abortion is at the heart of a libertarian philosophy, as "control over one's body" should be the basic right one has.

I beg to differ. When a person's desire to control his or her own body infringes upon the liberty of another person, then their liberty stops and the law begins. For example, any adult over the age of 21 can consume alcoholic beverages without interference from government. However, when that same person attempts to get behind the wheel of an automobile, they face legal penalties if caught. This is because while the person in question can consume alcohol freely, he cannot endanger other people by doing so. When an impaired person gets behind the wheel of a car, his/her reduced reaction time and dulled senses make the operation of a motor vehicle very dangerous for other motorists and for pedestrians. The "right to control one's body" in the case of drunk driving stops when other people are endangered.

Abortion is the same situation. When a woman has an abortion, she is infringing on the freedom of another human being, in this case the unborn child. Abortion is not simply a surgical procedure involving one person: it is a procedure that involves the active killing of one person for the convenience of another.

From a libertarian perspective, the right to life is the most important right we have. If we do not have an inalienable right to life, then free speech, freedom of assembly, and all of our other Constitutionally protected rights are worthless.

While it is true that a woman has the right to do with her body as she wishes, the unborn child is not her body. Instead, the unborn child is a separate entity. At fertilization, a completely new DNA code is formed. The embryo has all the building blocks of life, and all that is added from the point of fertilization onward is nutrition. Any "medical" procedure that results in the intentional, willful killing of this life is an infringement on the basic right to life of the unborn child.

What about the "hard cases"? Should libertarians oppose government intervention against abortion in the cases of rape and incest? No. In the case of rape and incest, a terrible crime has been committed against the mother. However, if that crime results in the creation of a new life, that child is not responsible for the crimes of its father. If we are to impose the death penalty for the crime of rape, it is the rapist who should be executed, not the innocent life that has resulted from this tragedy. Abortion in the case of rape and incest also deprive an innocent human being of its most important right, and must not be allowed.

What about abortion to save the life of the mother? Some people would argue that the option of abortion should be open in this case, and the state does not have a right to force the mother to die. But abortion to save the life of the mother is not a life-saving operation. It too results in the killing of an innocent human being. We do not have the right to kill another innocent person in order to save ourselves. If a woman needs a heart transplant and the only person that provided a match is another living human being, is she allowed to kill that person so that she may have the organ she needs to live? No.

Abortion to save the life of the mother is not a case of self-defense. In self-defense, a criminal has given up his own right to life by attempting to kill or maim another person, and the victim has the right to stay alive. The unborn child, however, has committed no action that has negated his/her own right to life. The baby is just as much a victim of this tragic medical circumstances as the mother, and is not at fault for the mother's life being at risk.

Finally, what about abortion when the baby has an incurable disease or disorder? While many libertarians would argue that a person has the right to end his/her own life, abortion in the case of fetal deformity is not voluntary suicide. It is the killing of someone because of their physical handicap, and is involuntary. Just as we are not allowed to kill born humans who are sick or elderly without their consent, we should not be allowed to kill unborn children based on the decision of someone else that their physical handicap is too great to bear.

The bottom line is that abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, which cannot be tolerated by libertarians or conservatives. Government has a responsibility to outlaw the killing of innocent human beings, born or unborn. Shouldn't we extend that protection to the more than 4000 babies killed every day in America?