Why many libertarians get abortion so badly wrong

By Jonathon Van Maren

It is disappointing, but should not be surprising, that the libertarians over at Reason have come out against overturning Roe v. Wade. After all, nothing is free — somebody has to pay for it. In the case of sexual liberties, it is preborn children. Men get sex; women get abortions. That’s how it works.

Earlier this month, Reason published a long column by Elizabeth Nolan Brown detailing a laundry list of reasons that, from her allegedly libertarian point of view, Roe should remain the law of the land. Brown writes her entire essay as if she has never heard the pro-life position before (which she probably hasn’t). To summarize: Human beings have human rights. Human rights begin when the human being begins. Science tells us when a new human life begins. Brown ignores all of this, and pretends that abortion is about a what, rather than a who.

She says that:

Abortion should remain legal because it is more compassionate to kill disabled or special needs children in the womb than to allow them to be born. Brown makes clear that abortion is, in the case of such children, generally more compassionate than adoptions. She doesn’t quite call them “useless eaters,” but she comes close, citing ethicists that believe not killing disabled children in the womb might actually be unethical.

Abortion should remain legal because women could be wrongly convicted (for miscarriage etc.) and doctors could be subject to more government oversight (which, for a certain sort of libertarian, is always a bad thing). This point, of course, is premised on the idea that abortion is either morally neutral or, as per her last point, morally good. There is no recognition of the fact that abortion ends the life of a developing human being.

Abortion should remain legal because banning it would “grow government,” not just with regard to support for disabled children (and more dependents of the state) or oversight of the medical profession, but because laws targeting the distribution of abortion pills could, Brown claims, become “a new war on drugs.” (Yes, if people are buying drugs with the express purpose of poisoning people, then we should do something about that.)

Abortion should remain legal to prevent censorship — specifically with regard to banning information about where to get abortions in states where abortion has become legal. In short, she worries that if preborn children have their right to life (or, to put it a more libertarian way, the right not to be killed) that there would be “less freedom in other realms, too.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *