22A023 A Pox on Roe? by Jim Davies, 6/7/2022
On May 23rd Lew Rockwell published on his fine web site his own thoughts on abortion, under the title Why Rothbardians Should Oppose Roe v Wade. This offers a counterpoint.
That well-known SCOTUS opinion (sometimes falsely called a "decision") holds that with some exceptions, abortion is legal in the United States. The prospect of it being revisited and overthrown by the present Conservative-dominated Court has got several kinds of people excited.
It's not that I've any love for the Supreme Court, or for that decision, nor for sure any distaste for Murray Rothbard; but I do wish that we Libertarians address the vexing abortion controversy from first principles only. We should not be dazzled by Murray's intellectual brilliance, but rather make sure he didn't err – as all of us occasionally do.
In summary the Rothbard / Rockwell / Ron Paul prescription Lew advanced is that the Federal Supremos should not make decisions on this subject but rather leave it to the fifty State Governments and their Courts. I beg to differ; it should be left to none of the above. To take it out of the federal furnace and cook it on fifty camp fires isn't a libertarian solution, it's a cop-out.
First principles demand that we begin with the libertarian axiom – a non-refutable premise: that every human being is his or her self-owner. Each of us can do anything we wish with our own lives, and therefore nothing at all with anyone else's. This is the SOA – the Self Ownership Axiom. Some express it as a moral principle – that we “will not initiate force.” Force can morally be used only to counter initiated force.
So let's apply it to the case of a girl who enjoys some sex, as Nature intended, but finds herself pregnant and realizes she cannot cope, being single and ill-supported. That must be one of the toughest dilemmas for anyone to solve, and I'm very glad that as a male I'll never have to face it.
Under the SOA, she owns herself; the decision therefore is hers alone. She may seek advice and help (see more below) but ultimately, she has to choose. The opinion of any government court – federal or local – is of slight, passing interest at most.
Now comes the hard part: is the developing fetus a human person, protected from harm by that very same SOA? Lew et al say that it is. I say it is not. Here's why.
Until separated from the mother's body, it is an integral part of that body, as much as any other part like an arm, a leg or a torso. It is 100% dependent on her; it has no ability to breathe or feed or drink but draws all those indispensable supplies from her. It is inside her skin, and so is part of her, in no sense independent. Potentially so, of course; but not actually so. She can, therefore, do with it whatever she wishes.
Counter to that is sometimes made the claim that no, the fetus is a separate person – despite all the above – because it has a different DNA from the mother. True enough; but so do about 360 other organisms that live and prosper in our bodies, each with its own genes, mostly helping us function. All of them are part of what makes one human body, subject to the SOA. So the “Different DNA” argument falls flat.
Net result: the mother is, by nature and its SOA, the sole decision maker. Not SCOTUS or any other government entity whatever; and that's where libertarians should begin!
Jane, our unfortunate single mom-to-be, is in sole charge though she'd be wise to ask advice and help. In the coming free society, in which all government is a sick and distant memory, here's what will probably happen – in full accord with the mast-head of LRC: “anti-state... pro-market.”
Among the 300+ million free individuals in these parts, some will hold a religious or other view that abortions are undesirable. I don't disagree. They will, I predict, form associations to discourage it – by making Jane an attractive offer. It will take the form:
“Jane, we would like you to bring this pregnancy to term, and deliver a healthy baby. We understand you don't want that and could not care for him, so we're making you this offer: do it anyway, and we'll pay you $10,000 and take the newborn baby off your hands and make sure he is adopted by a loving family.”
The dollar amount would vary, of course. Sometimes it won't be enough, and “Janes” will get abortions anyway. But such offers will greatly reduce the number who do.
They will have several other merits, among them this: that anti-abortion folk will have a great opportunity to put their own money where their mouths are. No longer will they be able to wave their placards and intimidate clinic workers and expect other people (including those who wholly disagree with them!) to be forced to pay the freight.
This is a market solution. It will work optimally, as markets always do, producing a big reduction in abortions, while imposing force on nobody. It's libertarian.
It depends on getting government entirely out of the way, including the disgusting cesspools, State as well as Federal, of its “justice” monopoly. That's non-trivial. How can it be done? Here's my answer.