Editor’s Note: This article originally was published on January 5, 2019, in another blog I write. See here. The only change between this post and the original is the cleanup of a few links. None of the subject matter or text was altered.
“…libertarianism is not at all a philosophy of life. Rather, it is a very, very, very limited philosophy. It pretty much asks only one question: “when is violence against another person justified?” and pretty much gives only one answer: “only in response to a prior use of violence, or threats.” That is, violence may properly be used only in defense, not offense. When the latter is engaged in, the perpetrator should be punished. That’s libertarianism in a nutshell,…”–Walter Block
Gasoline on the fire!
Although many people might think otherwise, the debate over abortion is centered on one question—is the unborn fetus a person with an inalienable right to life? Or not? Women’s rights are peripheral to this.
If it is true that a fetus is a person, then Walter Block has exposed a contradiction of the NAP on this issue. Any attempt to terminate a pregnancy through abortion would be an act of aggression against an unborn person.
Of course, the opposing view is that an unborn fetus is not a person and can be treated in any way desired by the woman, without interference from anyone else. If this is true, then there is no inconsistency within the NAP.
This is the question which must be answered. Either the fetus is a person or it is not. Either/or, but not both. There are no other choices. If it can be shown that a fetus is a person with the innate right to life, it will be impossible to defend the “right to choose.” On the other hand, if it can be proven to NOT be a person, the pro-life argument collapses into a quivering pile of nothingness.
If Zager and Evans were correct in their prediction, “…you’ll pick your sons, pick your daughters too, from the bottom of a long, glass tube…”, the personality of the child will be visible from the very beginning. As technology improves, viability will be pushed to an earlier and earlier date, which will erode any claim that the fetus does not become a person until an arbitrary point in time is reached. The use of ultrasound, imaging, and medical science will continue to support and bolster the pro-life position that a live, human, individual with a personality all its own exists. These are going to be extremely difficult hurdles for politics and rationalization to clear, regardless of judicial orders.
The burden of proof rests heavily on the pro-abortion side of this debate. It has the more difficult task of proving its point. Efforts to show that fetuses are not persons will prove, in the long run, to be futile and insurmountable.
The difference between these two positions cannot be reconciled. It will never be settled nor agreed upon. It is an “all or nothing” war of conflicting ideas. The NAP is skewed toward “women’s rights” and, as a consequence, does not allow the right to life to be extended to all unborn persons, only those who are “wanted”.
If libertarianism is a horse carrying its riders to freedom and the NAP is the saddle those riders rest on, then the abortion issue is a burr under that saddle. It will always be there, irritating and counter-productive, until it is removed and ceases to be a problem. When will that be? How will it happen? I don’t know. I can’t predict the future, but I believe it will have something to do with individuals gradually and peacefully changing their minds and then changing their ways. Repentence, in other words. Hopefully, libertarianism won’t end up as Bob Seger put it so brilliantly, “…caught like a wildfire out of control, til there was nothing left to burn and nothing left to prove…”
Where do we go from here? My answer, short and simple–keep moving. Don’t allow this single issue to tear us apart. A solution will appear, sooner or later, and it might be quite a lot later, maybe not until the year 6565. Doesn’t matter. Keep moving.