THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 169, April 15, 2002
Mimbrequo Chiricahua argues that sapience is the basis for rights, without offering any objective measure of sapience or supporting evidence for this proposition.
Yet is far from clear that a born infant, young toddler or mentally retarded person, to name a few obviously human examples, would have rights under his criteria. Even after birth, Peter Singer and others would make the case that a human infant is no more mentally competent than a dog or a monkey. If this justifies abortion, it justifies infanticide. Is this a road we wish to travel?
The pro-life position is not related to animal rights in any logical sense. A man is never at any stage of development a dog or a rat, but he was a boy and he was a fetus. Individuals possess inherent rights and each individual is a specific physical human organism; each specific human organism and thus each individual begins as a fetus. If any of our lives were destroyed during our earliest stages of development, the person that we today are would not exist.
This defense of an individual's right to life, not any imaginary appeal to the rights of other animals, is the proper libertarian basis for opposing abortion. It is my critic who would have us believe that humanity offers no guarantee of rights, as if somehow rights are granted by Mimbreqo Chiricahua.
- - - I don't agree with all the specifics in Mr. Davidson's letter, but I agree that technology offers the hope of a solution to the conflict between the mother's body and the life of the unborn child. Mr. Davidson is absolutely right that pro-lifers should take the lead in encouraging such technology and, once developed, putting it to use in a way that saves lives yet alleviates the burden on women who do not wish to be pregnant.
It is my belief that there will come a day when this technology does exist and at that time abortion will be considered barbaric.
W. James Antle III (Jimantle@aol.com)
I agree with every third sentence of Scott Stephens' 1,600 word letter in TLE#168, so it may be useful to point out a few of those I contest.
The capacity to reason does not "boil down to" an ability to communicate, much less an ability to enforce rights. If rights are proper claims, then might has nothing to do with the validity of the right. Nor is the level of intelligence consequential. The only issue is whether the being has the capacity to form abstract concepts and integrate experience into deliberative choices. A computer can't do that; nor can a monkey; nor can a fetus. That is the distinctive characteristic of "human being", which may be described as sentience, sapience or simply wisdom.
What we are able to derive from reason is the moral knowledge -- justice and equity -- which Scott describes. What my argument didn't attempt is the extension of that premise, which suggests that we can judge the moral worth of a person from the merits of their acts and the justifications they offer for their conduct. Scott seems to imply that wisdom entails the absence of moral judgment: "you are no greater than they, and they are equals to you." He suggests that we should automatically give away rights to any "others" for whom they are claimed. Scott loves his dog.
Proper claims do not conflict. Either a claim is justified or it isn't. Either a fetus has a "right" to enslave the woman or it doesn't. Granting rights willy-nilly, without merit, certainly invites conflicts and reduces their resolution to "might makes right," the inverse of what Scott claims to support.
Rights aren't merely a "definition of boundaries and dynamics" in social relationships. They are claims asserted in society which are either justified or not. If groups define rights, simply because they are asserted, then we are merely packs of animals, fluctuating in some peculiar wave theory of interactive existence. No, we are individual human beings who have proper claims to ownership of our own lives, liberty and property, which no group, government or herd can rationally deny. Violate, yes. Ignore, yes. But they cannot deprive us of the justice of our claims by mere force.
Bill Westmiller (email@example.com)
It seems that yes, by Cromm, we are in fact still arguing about abortion.
To those who wish to argue anti-choice, be aware of the world you are arguing for: Prohibition of common vetrinary compounds, maybe someone might rediscover the compound of herbs used by the "witches" of Europe, that induce miscarriage. Drug prohibition and virtual slavery for the mother for the duration of pregnancy since "harm" is "harm". Can't go having a drink or smoking something funny that might damage the proto-human, ne? Are you ready to enforce suicide, alcohol, drug and herb prohibition?
Once birthed, a mother has the choice to give the child up for adoption. It seems perfectly logical that, rather than create reproductive slavery, the people who (honestly, I hold such respect for life in great respect) cannot stand the death of any human, even a proto-human, develop the articial womb or rejectionless transplant as quickly as possible.
Take initiative for your faith and create a voluntary alternative. Don't just advocate your own version of slavery. Realize That Not Everyone Shares Your Faith.
In "Libertopia", go ahead and prosecute someone who has an abortion for murder. That is the point, isn't it? That it is "we" and not the "state" who chooses what is right and wrong? And like those who go to Nevada to get married on a whim rather than wait for the local social standard, places where women are so prosecuted will drive such actions away or underground. Again. But that is the choice of those who would perform such prosecutions, not the state.
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficient....the greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." -- Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]
I have read some of the letters submitted and find it interesting that freedom lovers can't come to agreement on this issue. Part of the problem stems from pro-abortion propaganda. The notion that stopping abortions somehow takes control of a woman's body away from the woman is false. A ban on abortion would allow a woman to do anything to her body that she wished. A ban on abortion would prevent the woman from doing harm to another being. This is a concept that I would think that Libertarians would embrace.
There are some who would argue that this other being is invading the mother's body. Therefore the mother has the right to evict it. I think I am safe in saying that anyone who engages in consensual sexual intercourse knows there is always a chance of pregnancy. So the woman who participates in consensual sex has consented to having a fetus share her body. I support a woman's right to choose. My belief is she has the right to choose whether to have sexual intercourse or not. Once that choice is made she has no choice regarding the consequences. Her rights end where another's rights begin. Just like any other situation.
What about the arguments about fetuses not having any rights because of any number of reasons ranging from not being able to communicate to not being able to survive on their own? Can anyone show me a new born that can communicate or survive on their own? Do people loose their right to life every time they are unconscious? There is legal precedence for rights for the unborn. The Bald Eagle is a protected bird. Every part of the bird is protected. It is against the law to posses even the feather of a bald eagle unless you are a Native American. It is also against the law to disturb an eagle egg. Why is that? What does the egg contain? An eagle of course. That unborn eagle is just as protected as a fully mature adult. Why can't we give humans the same protection as we give to bald eagles?
A pregnancy clearly involves two beings. Neither being has the right to terminate the life of the other. It seems to me that this philosophy is in total agreement with the Libertarian philosophy.
Brian Gross [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I, too, have some reservations about the long term viability of libertarian philosophy but your recent accusations are unfair.
Once upon a time, mankind lived in a low technology world. Life was hard and extracting a living from the land required many hands working together. Also, low tech life offered few opportunities to store wealth against the future so "retirement" meant having children willing to care for you when you grew too old to be useful to the rest of the tribe. If you did not have children, you starved. For most of human history -- at least since the invention of agriculture -- new life represented the future survival of the tribe. Old life was a burden to be borne by the oldster's children if at all. These twin economic forces made large families desirable and high infant mortality meant more pregnancies were required to make the needed number of surviving children. In such a world, the actual gave way to the potential.
Naturally, the morality such a condition evolved would see the group as more important than the individual and would treat any attempt to interfere with making babies as bad or evil or sinful. Because this cycle persisted for thousands of years, the morality it spawned became part of what is quaintly called "traditional."
A wealthy, high-technology, world changes the economies that drove much of "traditional" morality. In that world, almost everyone has the opportunity to store wealth against the future so he or she can work for several years and -- unless bad luck intervenes -- have sufficient savings to live in retirement for many more years. In a wealthy, high- tech world, the desire for children is no longer driven by the needs of survival and old age and children become luxuries. As human life expectancy and wealth grows, pregnancy is no longer a sacred state and the potential gives way to the actual.
While libertarians are at times inclined to Utopian fantasies, they are, generally, forward looking people. To lump those that grasp at least some of the implications of an economy of plenty and extended human life life span into the same category as the atavists is extremely unfair. Mr. Antle deserves your contempt but the libertarians who see thru his sophomoric arguments into the future deserve an apology.
- - -
William Westmiller asks:
'...who will defend the fetus against the possible "initiation of force"? Federal Fetal Police?'
I nominate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fetuses. They already have the necessary training and proper attitude to effectively enforce any ban.
Stephen Carville [email@example.com]
I don't usually engage in discussions about abortion for exactly the same reason I don't jump off a roof and flap my wings to fly: It's pointless, successful resolution is impossible, and it's bound to hurt a lot.
But here I go anyway.
James Antle has already articulated my position better than I ever did, and with considerably more patience than I probably could have mustered. The truth is, I didn't really have strong feelings on the question of when a baby becomes a "person" until the development of my own.
You can dismiss it as anthropomorphizing if you wish, but the truth is I became convinced my child had distinct likes and dislikes long before she was born. Though she obviously couldn't speak, she expressed them very clearly. Is this an evidence of personhood? I don't know, but she acted a lot more like a person than like a dandruff flake.
Then she was delivered, six weeks early. At a point when we would have been well within our legal rights to abort her had we been so inclined, she was surgically removed from her mother due to complications in the pregnancy which threatened them both. She was quite whole, quite active, quite opinionated about the whole thing.
In the fourteen years since that event, those facts about her have not changed. She has grown, has learned to walk and talk and ignore homework, has developed womanly bits. But she has not fundamentally changed from the day she slipped the surly bonds of Mom six weeks before the scheduled mystical event which in the opinion of some would have transformed her into a person. An event which, technically, never took place.
She always was a person. Before or after her birth, I would have defended her life with my own because there has never been any doubt as to that fact.
You can dismiss them as zygotes, equate them with dandruff, dismiss their defenders as "fetal police". Say whatever you like. But the evidence of my eyes says that they're people, and that killing one for convenience is murder.
Joel Simon [Joel.Simon@kri-us.com]
Your correspondent W. James Antle III champions the moment that the sperm fertilises the ovum as the start of a human life, after which we are required to accord rights to that potential (or actual, I'm not quite sure exactly what he thinks magically happens at this time) "human being." I, however, find this arbitrary choice highly unsatisfactory in the light of the actual details of human reproduction. A fertilised egg has a ways to go before it makes it to foetus. Firstly it's got to make it out of the oviduct and into the uterus. Unlike some other mammals, it's possible for the egg to accidentally get lost on the way and end up in the abdominal cavity, implant somewhere there and become a potentially lethal (unless removed) ectopic pregnancy. Even if it makes it to the uterus, it's still got to successfully implant. It may fail to implant for a variety of reasons due to a defect or defects in the developing ball of cells, or some kind of abnormality in the mother, or both. It's difficult to estimate how many fertilised eggs fail to implant in the normal course of events (i.e. in the absence of contraceptives) but most authorities believe it is a large percentage. In fact even a fair percentage that actually implant spontaneously abort before a pregnancy is ever detected.
Thus I really can't see why (particularly in this age of cloning and genetic manipulation) there is a logical reason to accord the fertilised egg the status of a human being. In any case, speaking for myself, I'm uncomfortable about granting even other adults "rights" let alone entitlements, let alone the unborn. Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone doesn't imply anything about me according you "rights" thanks very much -- and I don't need any from you.
"Between two groups of people who want to make inconsistent kinds of worlds, I see no remedy but force." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Well, I know which side of the "abortion debate" I come down on...
John Pate [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Re: Jim Davidson's letter in TLE #168
After reading Jim's letter in TLE#168 I am glad to say I agree 97+%.
However, it brings up an interesting question. To wit: Once there is a way to viably transplant a fetus, should that be a required option instead of abortion? In other words, should a woman be able to be charged with murder if she knowingly had an abortion rather than having the baby transferred to a surrogate womb?
In comparing it to the idea of trespass, I find a similar situation. If someone is an invited guest in your house, and they are physically unable to leave (whether handicapped or injured) you as the property owner do not have the right to kill them when they don't leave as requested. You have an obligation, brought on by inviting them in, to see them safely off your property. And if they were incapacitated while on your property, by your willing actions, you have an obligation to restore them to health. Only if they refuse to leave can you use force. Not if they are merely unable to. And then only enough force as would be reasonable considering the situation. (i.e.: You could forcibly carry off your property a man who refused to get up and leave because he could not walk, but not shoot him out of hand). And a fetus is patently unable to leave without assistance.
Thing is, this is more than a theoretical discussion. Currently medical technology has the ability to let a fetus survive and grow into a person outside the womb if they are removed from the womb sometime in the third trimester. As far as I know, survival rates are not as high as in full term pregnancies, but they are high enough to make it a consideration.
Jeff Colonnesi [email@example.com]
- - -
You certainly bring up interesting issues. For my own part, I am not satisfied that coercion is necessary to resolve this issue. So, when you ask "should that be a required option instead of abortion" I would say, "no."
It might, however, be economically encouraged. If you desire to have that result, sending the force of the state to brutalize women who don't make that choice willingly would seem the least effective means to accomplish it. Setting up a trust fund to pay women to have transplants rather than abortions would seem better.
Funding the research and development to make transplants easier and cheaper for doctors to perform than abortions would also seem like a useful area for investment. I encourage everyone who wants to see fewer abortions take place (which includes many of the most ardent abortion advocates I've met) to do something for the funding of these technical developments.
I don't agree that a property owner has any obligation to a trespasser, except to do what the property owner thinks is the right thing to do. In particular, I don't agree that a woman who has invited a guest into her home is obliged to help that guest leave if, for example, the guest grabs a knife and puts it to her throat. The woman is free to immediately act in self defense, and kill the guest, who is now a trespasser and an assailant.
Clearly, instances of medical necessity and even medical advice mitigate against charging all women who have abortions with murder even if transplant technology is available. It has to be the property owner's choice to decide how her property is used, and how her property is defended or it isn't her property. Again, divided interest in property leads to slavery, and the tragedy of the commons is everywhere to be seen.
Now, I'm not in charge of setting up every conceivable court system. You might find a place where women who have abortions instead of transplants are charged with murder. I can see all kinds of possible defenses in such cases. I'm not sure what a jury of her peers would decide; presumably that would in each case depend on the specific facts of the case.
So, while I'm unwilling to second-guess how a woman chooses to defend her life, liberty, and property, I'm also unwilling to second-guess how a jury might view her actions. Perhaps before a charge of murder is pursued, a grand jury should consider whether there is sufficient evidence for an indictment? As the world generates a few thousand more countries in the coming century, there will be all kinds of courts from which to choose.
A further analogy was once proposed by a friend of mine. I think it deserves some attention. Suppose a skydiver were to parachute onto your property, break her neck, be punctured from objects in your yard penetrating her body, be paralyzed, and be bleeding to death. What is your moral obligation to this person? Choose from the following:
I'm not offering to solve this puzzle. It is a puzzle. It deserves individual attention from those who would propose solutions to the abortion issue. I don't have a ready answer.
But, I will say that (c) appears to be very close to the attitude of many abortion opponents. I think (b) is an improvement over (c) in many ways, and also represents some improvement over (a) in certain ways. If financial assistance from interested parties is available to fund (b) so the property owner isn't forced to pay for the care of another (to live for another), then (b) seems to have much promise for a long-term solution.
I don't insist that all pregnancies are consensual. I'm sure they aren't. Nor do I insist that unexpected pregnancies involving consensual sex create an obligation on the part of the woman that is absent from the man. It may even be that the sex partners took precautions which failed, in which case perhaps the cost of transplanting the unwanted fetus should be borne by the birth control product manufacturer.
I don't think property owners have any rights. Rights are a poor fiction created to describe individual liberty. For many reasons, I think that mode of thinking about liberty failed to work well. So, I would agree that property owners don't have the right to kill those guests who refuse to leave when requested if the guest has no ability to comply, but only because rights are a poor way of describing freedoms. I do think property owners have the freedom to choose how they defend their property and against whom, at all times, and in all manners.
I don't accept that inviting people to visit my property creates any obligation on my part once I've decided that the guests must leave. Again, if a guest has a knife to my throat, I'll do whatever I can and must to defend my life.
By saying that if a guest were incapacitated while on my property, by my willing actions, an obligation on my part to restore them to health is created, you skip over all sorts of specifics of each case. Were my willing actions taken in defense of my life, liberty, or property? If so, then, no obligation is created. I am free to use deadly force to defend my life, my liberty, and my property: it is only up to me to choose whether deadly force is appropriate. Nobody else gets to say what actions I will take. After the fact, a grand jury or a jury may have cause to examine my actions, true. But that is conceivably true of any situation.
Let's suppose, though, that you are correct in your analogy about not killing someone out of hand who won't get up to leave. That seems to be saying that a woman who has asked her fetus to leave, and obtained no good answer, only uses force necessary to remove the fetus from her womb and does not kill the fetus while it is within her, has done her bit. If the living fetus is left on a table to fend for itself, her obligation is complete, right?
So, that doesn't argue for an obligation to transplant. It seems to argue for an obligation not to kill during the abortion procedure. Once the mother and fetus are separated, and both living, the mother has no further obligation. If the fetus is not viable outside the womb, and if there is no willing host or artificial womb for transplant, then the fetus will very likely die.
Seems callous, but life often is. If the fetus is to be taken seriously as a person, it has to be self-responsible. If it is self- responsible, then the mother is only obligated to part ways with a living fetus. If the fetus is not self-responsible, then, we may well ask, is it a person?
I do think these issues are more than merely theoretical. It seems clear that non-destructive abortions can now be performed, where a living fetus or embryo is removed from the mother. It seems clear that some of these living beings can be nurtured outside the mother's womb to full health and independence. New technologies will add to the percentage of survivors.
So, we need to begin thinking about taking children seriously. If a fetus is to be taken seriously, it should be recognized as a self- responsible entity. If it isn't conceivably a self-responsible entity, and nobody will take responsibility for it, then we cannot insist on taking it seriously.
I'm not willing to say that I cannot make a case against a woman's freedom to choose abortion, but every way it is turned, in every light it is held, the thing seems to keep coming up the same. Perhaps I'm missing something.
Jim Davidson [firstname.lastname@example.org]
I hope this letter finds you and all readers in good health. This day, 9 April 2002 is the government's (Usgov) official day of remembrance of the Holocaust. It's a worthy goal never to forget or forgive the Nazis for anything they ever did. Noted by government functionary Congoleesa Rice, we will "never forgive, nor forget".
Unfortunately, such aggression has been happening in West Bank towns for some time now, against non-Jews. Not to the degree or intensity as had occurred in the 1940's, but still, in it's way, disturbing. Laws have been subtly passed prohibiting farming or many other means of earning a living by West Bank residents without the possession of expensive (and difficult to acquire) permits. In many ways "Palestinians" have been legally maneuvered into being wards of the state.
This is apparently not to their liking, resulting in the disaffected performing outrageous acts of terrorism seldom seen on this Earth. The flip side of the conflict shows the government of Israel reacting in an identical manner that the Usgov has reacted to in this endless "War on Terrorism".
That the Bush Administration has asked Israel to stand down is both laudable, and disturbing. Am I the only person to see the hypocrisy and irony in this? I hope not, or our Libertarian cause is well and truly lost.
Enjoyed the running debate on Abortion, but I think that the tenor of all arguments were too strident, on both sides. I can only paraphrase a Ranger buddy of mine concerning the moral or ethical aspects of abortion, "let God sort 'em out." Not my job.
Jack Jerome [email@example.com]
Dear Libertarian Enterprise,
That scribbling loon, David M. Brown, is now attacking Justin Raimondo for the use of "hyperbole" in prosecuting his anti-war stance against America and the Israelis. According to Brown, Raimondo is soft on terrorism just because he doesn't harp on it as much as Raimondo harps on the sins of people who are trying to defend themselves against terrorism. Other "right-wing anarchists," along with Mr. L. Neil Smith, also get thrown into this caboodle:
Neil, hyperbolic? Say it ain't so!
Do you have a business? Do you offer a service? Do you have goods to sell?