By Shane Kastler
At the core of libertarianism is the belief that the government should leave people alone and let them live their lives. While most accept a certain amount of government intrusion under the guise of security; many have come to question how far this intrusion should go. While not everything I do with my body or put into my body is good for me. Do I not have the right as a free citizen to do with my body as I please? Is this not between me and my conscience? Or more to the point, between me and my God? Or should government have a role in this process? Should they dictate, legislate, or moralize what I do with my body?
Of course the libertarian answer to this would be that “it’s my body and the government needs to keep its hands off.” As long as I am not bothering, threatening, or harming another; I should be able to do as I please with my body. A strong case can be made that this is a logical conclusion. That this is a libertarian conclusion. That this is what America’s founders had in mind. And if this is true for you and I. If this is true for both men and women. Then should it not also be true.....for babies?
Many libertarians have a “pro-choice” view of abortion. Stemming from the notion that a woman’s body is hers to do with as she pleases. While this may be true, another tenet of libertarianism is that she can do as she pleases as long as she doesn’t harm another. But abortion, very much causes the harm of another. Indeed it causes the death of another. Libertarians nationwide will take a giant leap towards consistency when they embrace not only the liberty of the woman, but also the liberty of the unborn child. If a woman chose to end the life of her 3 year old daughter because the child was unwanted, both libertarians and non-libertarians alike would be aghast. All right minded individuals would unite in opposition to such barbarism. After all, you have no right to take another’s life in such fashion. Yet if that 3 year old happens to be 3 years and one day younger, it is legal to murder her in the United States. This concept goes against the grain of decency and indeed of libertarianism.
The late Murray Rothbard wrote: “Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should be free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another.” (http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard168.html, accessed on May 7, 2013)
What more of a “violent invasion” could be imagined than the abortionist’s instruments of death invading the womb and destroying the life of a baby? Elaborating on Rothbard’s principle, Laurence M. Vance writes: “Because a child in the womb is helpless, not initiating violence, not committing aggression, and not there of its own accord, I believe that, to be consistent, libertarians should not only be opposed to abortion, but in favor of making it a criminal act just like murder, rape, kidnapping, theft, assault, and robbery would be in any libertarian society based on the non-aggression principle.” (http://lewrockwell.com/vance/vance297.html, accessed on May 7, 2013)
When Ron Paul came on the political scene, many were intrigued by his libertarian slant. He is perhaps most well-known for his monetary policy; but he holds a fairly consistent viewpoint that the government needs to leave private citizens alone. That the federal government’s job is not to protect us; but to protect “our liberties.” Knowing his libertarian views, some are surprised to learn of his staunch pro-life record. As an obstetrician who has delivered over four thousand babies; he has witnessed first-hand what many choose to ignore. That the baby in the womb is a person. A living and growing human being that is just as worthy of the right to live as his or her parents are. For libertarians to be truly consistent, the fight for protection of our rights needs to include children, even those living within the mother’s womb.
The ghastly practices of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, and the ensuing trial, have perhaps awakened many of those who were neutral on abortion to the realities of infanticide. Gosnell, it seems, concluded that if it was legal and morally acceptable to snuff out the life of the baby in the womb, then it must also be acceptable to snuff out the baby moments after leaving the womb. His logic is reprehensible, but it is consistent with the philosophy of abortion. Either the baby in the womb is a human or it is not. If it is determined to be a human, then it is either deserving of protection or it is not. And if it is determined that the rights of the mother to end the life for whatever reason trumps the rights of the unsuspecting child to live; then we are faced with a staggering moral problem and a frightening slippery slope.
The moral problem should be obvious. How do we justify the taking of an innocent life? Certainly abortion as a matter of parental convenience should be rejected. Just because the parents do not want the child doesn’t give them the right to murder the child. When society reaches a point of legally accepting such practices as tolerable; and even normal, then that society has drifted into a hard-hearted quagmire of alarming proportions.
Some would argue that the health or life of the mother should be a consideration for abortion. But once again, moral judgments must then be made as to which life is more valuable. How do we determine that, for example, a thirty year old human is more worthy of life than a 6 month old (post-conception) human? A libertarian might argue that this is a decision between the mother and her doctor. Or the mother and the father and the doctor. But one very important piece of the puzzle is missing. Where is the child’s voice? Where is the child’s vote? Sadly, in America today, such a child has no voice and thus no rights under the law. Not only is the child forced to forfeit any say in the matter. This child is forced to forfeit his very life. Nothing about this is “libertarian” and certainly nothing about it is “Christian.”
The philosophical dilemma that arises from abortion also takes us down a frightening slippery slope of death and coercion. If it is deemed acceptable practice for mother, father, and/or doctor to decide to end the life of a child; then it opens the door for other people or groups of people to make determinations on who is allowed to live and who is decreed to die. Clearly it can be seen where a defense of euthanasia could spring forth from such a concept.
Furthermore, when so called “death panels” enter into health-care conversations, the topic is immediately discarded as the delusional ramblings of the paranoid. But the philosophical foundation for death panels is the same as for abortion. In a 1999 speech before congress, Ron Paul stated: “I am strongly pro-life. I think one of the most disastrous rulings of this century was Roe versus Wade. I do believe in the slippery slope theory. I believe that if people are careless and casual about life at the beginning of life, we will be careless and casual about life at the end. Abortion leads to euthanasia. I believe that.” (http://www.ronpaul.com/on-the-issues/abortion/ :accessed on 5/7/2013)
In all likelihood the founders of America would have been horrified at the notion that one day it would be legal to execute a baby in the mother’s womb. Certainly if the founders had access to the ultrasound technology we have today they would be appalled that such precious life could be legally killed, in the "land of the free and the home of the brave" no less. What gives one person, or group of persons, the right to take another innocent life? What grounds can be established for such a practice? How is this consistent with the tenets of America or of libertarianism? It simply cannot be defended philosophically or morally.
From a Christian perspective, abortion is an issue that most Christians agree on. Without doubt it is an issue that Bible-believing Christians should agree on. With murder as a capital offense in the Old Testament and the Levitical command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) before us we see that abortion could not be justified, even under the heavy-handed Mosaic Law. But New Testament Christians don’t live under Mosaic Law. We live in the age of grace (see Romans 6:14) with Jesus Christ as our ultimate authority and law-giver. Not surprisingly, the law against murder that existed in the Old Testament still applies in the New Testament. Jesus goes well beyond simply calling his followers to avoid murdering their enemies, actually calling us to “love your enemies” and to “pray for those who persecute” us (Matthew 5:44). If we are called to show love and grace to our enemies, how much more our own children? How do we justify abortion based upon the teachings of Scripture? How do we justify abortion based upon the tenets of liberty? How do we justify abortion as a bedrock of libertarianism? Indeed we do not, because indeed we cannot. For libertarianism to be consistent with the idea of liberty; and certainly for it to be consistent with Christian teaching, abortion must be rejected and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must apply to the most innocent and helpless of our society. What good does it do for us to defend our liberties, all the while endorsing the notion that we have the legal right to destroy the liberty and the life of another free and innocent person?