Tag Archives: Walter Block

Drowning Swimmers or Deliberate Murder

In their article, “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy”[i],  Walter Block[ii] and Roy Whitehead[iii] make the following argument.


“However, just because aborting the fetus is abominable, it does not follow that it should be prohibited by law. Under a just e.g., libertarian law code,
136 there are numerous despicable acts, which are not legally pro­scribed, since they do not constitute “invasions” or “border crossings.” Abortion falls into this category. It is a failure to come to the aid of or an unwillingness to become a “good Samaritan.” The woman who refuses to carry her fetus to term is in exactly the same position as a person who refuses to rescue a drowning swimmer. Abortion is not, in and of itself, an act invasive of other people or their property rights, even when fetuses are considered persons.”

My paraphrased version of this: Just because abortion is abominable, we should not prohibit it. After all, there are other despicable [abominable] acts which would not be proscribed under libertarian law.

I agree completely with this statement, as it is written. We should not prohibit abortion because it is abominable. Instead, we should prohibit it because it is the deliberate killing of an unborn human being, who has done nothing wrong, nothing deserving the punishment of execution. It is the murder of an unborn, personal, human being; therefore, it should be prohibited. It is a sad commentary on our modern way of life that it is not.

The numerous despicable acts (unnamed in the quote) are not legally proscribed because they do not constitute “invasions” or “border crossings.” Ah, yes, trespass again. In all the imagined acts, however, there is a common thread–all the parties involved MUST be willing participants. If there is even one unwilling participant in any one of these “despicable” acts, then someone’s borders have been crossed. Ask an unborn fetus if she is willing to have her space (the placental sac) invaded. I daresay that, from her point of view, abortion does not, absolutely does not fall into the “despicable action” category which will be allowed under Block and Whitehead’s “just” libertarian code of law.

The woman who refuses to carry her baby to term is NOT the same as someone who refuses to rescue a drowning swimmer. Refusal to act in order to save a person’s life is not equivalent to deliberate action in order to take a person’s life. Not at all, not even close. There may not be any criminal intent in refusing to save a drowning swimmer, e.g., overloaded lifeboats at the sinking of the Titanic, where taking on one more drowning swimmer would have sunk the lifeboat, killing them all. An action such as this could be considered self-defense. Emotionally excruciating, perhaps, but not criminal. Aborting a fetus, though, is not just morally repugnant, but a deliberate act of homicide.

A more appropriate analogy would have been to compare the woman who aborts her unborn fetus with someone who holds a swimmer’s head under water, refusing to allow him to breathe, thus drowning him. Comparing the fetus with a drowning swimmer is ludicrous. A drowning swimmer is in mortal danger, while there is nothing more alive than a healthy and growing fetus. Really now, if you wanted to see it like this, the fetus is swimming laps (no pun intended), preparing herself to become an Olympic champion and is in no danger at all except from the person who “owns the pool.”

Abortion IS, in and of itself, invasive of other people and their property rights, especially and particularly unborn children who are (or ought to be) considered persons with their own set of rights. It is plain to be seen that, in order to maintain the cohesiveness and integrity of the theory of property rights, “rights” MUST be more important than what IS right.


[i] Block, Walter E. and Roy Whitehead. 2005. “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy,” Appalachian Law Review, 4 (2) 1-45

[ii] Walter Block, an Austrian school economist and anarcho-libertarian philosopher, is Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Chair in Economics and Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans and Senior Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

[iii] Roy Whitehead, JD, LLM, Associate Professor of Business Law, University of Central Arkansas.

Correcting the Terminology of Abortion: Parasites and Trespassers Defined, Part 2

[Editor’s Note: This is the second part of an article which was originally published in one piece. None of the content has been changed, except to facilitate the split. See here to view Part 1.

Section II: Trespassing

A Legal View of Trespass[i]

Murray Rothbard[ii], a major contributor to modern libertarian thought, stresses the “legality” of abortion in the quote shown below. He appeals to law to validate his claim that a woman has an absolute right to have an abortion.

“What we are trying to establish here is not the morality of abortion (which may or may not be moral on other grounds), but its legality, i.e., the absolute right of the mother to have an abortion”[iii]

Well, all right, then. Let’s look at this from a legal perspective. As you will see below, I argue that a fetus is not a trespasser based on the legal aspect of what it means to be a trespasser. I state firmly and unequivocally that a fetus CANNOT be a trespasser because there is no legal justification for the attribute. Trespassing is a criminal act, punishable by law! A fetus cannot be tried and convicted, by law, for the crime of trespass, therefore, a fetus is not a trespasser.

I will go further. Saddling a fetus with the pejorative label of “trespasser” or “parasite” is nothing more than an attempt to justify the pro-abortion position. It is in the same class as calling the fetus “a clump of cells”, “fetal tissue”, “product of conception”, “blob of protoplasm”, or “uterine content” and seeks to obfuscate the real meaning of what an abortion is–the deliberate killing of an innocent, unborn human being.

Dictionary definitions of ‘trespasser’ can be seen here.[iv]

“One who has committed trespass; one who unlawfully enters or intrudes upon another’s land, or unlawfully and forcibly takes another’s personal property.”

and here[v].

“In the law of tort, property, and criminal law a trespasser is a person who commits the act of trespassing on a property, that is, without the permission of the owner. Being present on land as a trespasser thereto creates liability in the trespasser, so long as the trespass is intentional.”

In these descriptions, the emphasis is on unlawful entry, forceful taking, and intentional action. This is about as far from a newly conceived zygote or a four-month old fetus as anything could get.

Let’s break this down. Trespassing is a criminal act, prohibited by law and punishable under law. It is embedded into the legal code. Trespassing may be done willfully, ignorantly, or mistakenly, but it always involves the crossing of a previously established boundary. The trespasser always intrudes on someone else’s space (property) from some other location or position. If there is no transgression of boundaries, there is no trespass.

To intrude on someone’s property by mistake or out of ignorance should not be (and usually is not) considered criminal unless damage is done to the property. More likely than not, trespassers who are confronted will remove themselves promptly, with the knowledge that behavior of that sort will not be tolerated. Trespassers who offer a sincere apology will probably be allowed to vacate the property without any further trouble and that will be the end of it. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) An honest, contrite confession of a mistake or lack of knowledge will go a long way in defusing a potentially violent situation.

An example of this might be that a young woman from the city visits her uncle, who lives in a heavily forested part of the country. While there, she decides to venture out and explore the wilderness. Since there are no fences or signs, she has no idea that she has left her uncle’s property and is now walking through his neighbor’s forest. The neighbor sees her, confronts her, and warns her that she is trespassing and must remove herself from the property. In response to this, she confesses her mistake, asks for direction back to her uncle’s place, and leaves without further ado.

Under this scenario, the neighbor whose property boundary was violated would likely do nothing more, unless he called the uncle and asked him to inform the niece of the property lines. Legally, he probably would not be able to make a case for the arrest and trial of a young woman who had simply made a mistake.

Intentional trespass, on the other hand, requires deliberate action and knowledge. It is done with the understanding that a boundary has been placed around the property by the rightful owner. The trespasser would have to consciously violate that boundary without regard for the will of the owner. Such a violation could and might result in a penalty being assessed against the trespasser, if the property owner was inclined to push the issue.

Suppose that this same young woman, while walking through the forest, came to a place where there was a four strand, barbed wire fence, arrow-straight and fiddle-string tight. In addition, there was a “No Trespassing” sign fastened to a fence post at fifty-foot intervals. There could be no mistaking of the intent. This would be a clear indication that she was not allowed to go any further, under penalty of law. The choice then would be hers–to obey the injunction and turn back or to willfully climb over the fence in a deliberate act of trespass, which would be considered criminal if discovered and prosecuted.

Criminal trespass cannot happen in the case of pregnancy, because the (supposed, alleged) violator, the fetus, was conceived and has always existed in the womb[vi]. It originated from within the womb. It has never been anywhere else. It has never crossed any boundary. How can something, anything, be charged with trespassing if it began inside the boundaries and never crossed them? The fetus may be unwanted, but it is not a trespasser. Call it a noxious weed if you wish, but don’t call it a trespasser. Assert your right to remove weeds from your “lawn”, but don’t base your claim on trespass law.

Criminal prosecution usually takes the form of arrest, charge, hearing/trial, verdict, and penalty/release, or some variation of this process. Every person who is arrested for a crime should be advised of the charge(s) against him. Not only that, but he should be expected to understand why he has been charged and what the penalty might be if he is found guilty. Moreover, he should have a right to counsel and the opportunity to defend himself. In addition, he should be able to appeal his case to a higher authority. Or at least this is the way it’s supposed to work.

Trespass is a legal concept. It must be handled in a legal manner. In order to prove a case of trespass, these steps (at a minimum) must be followed:

1. Charge or accusation

2. Hearing or trial

3. Evidence presented

4. Verdict pronounced

5. Penalty imposed or case dismissed.

In a case of (supposed) fetal trespass against a woman, this will not be the course of action. Consider:

1. No charges or accusations have ever been (nor will ever be) brought against the “offender”.[vii] If they were, it would not be able to hear nor understand them.

2. There is no trial or hearing in which the fetus is given the opportunity to defend itself nor is anyone else appointed to act on its behalf. In fact, if someone else did make an attempt to speak for it, he could be charged[viii] with a crime himself.

3. The only evidence presented at all is that the woman is known to be pregnant. There is no evidence presented to prove that the fetus committed any “crime” of trespass.

4. The verdict is not based on objective proof beyond a shadow of doubt, but solely on the subjective decision of the woman and anyone around her who might benefit from the abortion, either financially or emotionally.

5. The penalty is carried out–execution–without any possibility of appeal.

This sort of proceeding reminds me of the poem, A Mouse’s Tale[ix] in Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice in Wonderland[x].

“…I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury, said cunning old Fury. I’ll try the whole cause and condemn you to death.”

Fetal trespass is a misnomer. There is no law directly forbidding a fetus to reside in a womb or compelling it to vacate the premises. There is no law which orders a fetus to act in a certain manner regarding the violation of property boundaries. None. Nada. Nyet. Nein. There never will be. It would be the absolute height of foolishness to forbid a fetus from trespassing, at least as much as it would be to forbid a dog from pooping on a neighbor’s front lawn.

Identifying a fetus as a trespasser is dissembling. It is incorrect terminology. In today’s social and political environment, it would be equivalent to “fake news.” Calling something what it is not in order to justify a viewpoint is not only false and misleading, it is morally reprehensible. It is irresponsible at best, deadly at worst.

The counter-argument might be presented that, since the fetus is not a person[xi], legally correct criminal proceedings really don’t apply. Even in cases of non-persons becoming trespassers, however, the law still operates in the same way. Trespassing is a criminal act and must be treated that way.

Domestic animals, dogs, for instance, can and do leave their owner’s property and trespass on someone else’s. Sometimes they poop on front lawns, which is a nuisance. Sometimes they are more aggressive, e.g., killing a neighbor’s sheep. A tree can (and sometimes does) fall across a property boundary and cause damage, for example, if it crashes through a neighbor’s garage roof.

In the case of the tree falling, someone would cut it up, clean it up, and remove it from the site. If you wanted to imagine it this way, the tree would be “punished” for its trespass.

In the case of the sheep-killing dog, the dog might be shot by the shepherd, thus “paying” for its crime. It might be imprisoned (kenneled, chained) by its owner to keep it from running wild and causing more damage. Pre-crime[xii], so to speak.

However, no matter how much cases like these can be twisted and contorted, the owner of the dog or the tree is, legally speaking, ultimately the one who is “charged” with trespass and is forced (restitution, insurance, etc.) to make things right. Dogs and trees, while able to “trespass” and cause damage, are not held legally liable. Their owners are.

Dogs and trees can trespass on a person’s property, but they do not understand that they do so. To them, it is a completely natural act. They know nothing else. It is futile to legally charge them with trespass, so we take the more rational step of charging their owner, requiring that he make the situation right and compensating the victim for damages caused.

Some might claim that I have blown my case. If dogs and trees can trespass unknowingly, then so too can a fetus. This assertion collapses, however, under the same point that I made earlier–trespass cannot occur without the violation of a boundary. While dogs and trees can and do violate property boundaries, the fetus never has. Dogs and trees came across the line from some other place. The fetus arrived from nowhere and, from the very beginning, has always existed on the property.

The whole process from sexual intercourse to the realization that a woman is pregnant can be roughly compared to the appearance of alien spaceships from (seemingly) nowhere into Earth’s space without warning.

  1. We broadcast and blast radio waves into the universe non-stop, sometimes with the express purpose of catching the attention of other-worldly entities—sexual intercourse.
  2. We know that “intercourse” of this nature might result in the appearance of a spaceship into Earth’s space and time–possibility of conception and pregnancy.
  3. We understand that this appearance might have repercussions and possibly even prove fatal—pregnancy which adversely affects the health and well-being of the woman.
  4. We also understand that the appearance might produce future benefits which we can only imagine at the time—interaction with the new-born baby.
  5. In the event that an alien spaceship does appear, we have to make a decision either to live with it, cooperate with it, and benefit from its presence, or to use violence to blast it out of the sky and justify that violence in an attempt to maintain the life we prefer and have become accustomed to, regardless of the death and damage that might ensue–to abort or not to abort.

The one discrepancy in this comparison is that alien spaceships, regardless of where they originate, come from another place within the universe, or for those who are really into it, from some other parallel universe. Consequently, they can, according to our code of justice, legally be charged with criminal trespass, found guilty, and “punished”. After all, it is our space! How well that might work out remains to be seen.

Unborn fetuses (and this is the pivot of my argument) do not and never have come from another location. They appear out of nowhere. They do not exist before they arrive. They spring from nothing. They are “created” within the womb by the simple joining of an egg cell and a sperm cell. Before this union, there is nothing but two individual cells. After that, there is a new human being, who has committed no crime and is completely innocent of any charge or accusation against it.

Conclusion

If the unborn fetus is not a parasite nor a trespasser, then what is it? There is only one answer left–a unique, personal, human being which has been placed, through no action, will, or desire of its own, in a vulnerable, dangerous position. It deserves all the protection that we can give it, if we are so inclined. Unfortunately, quite often, we are so NOT inclined, consequently, it ends up dead.

Greg Koukl has written what I consider to be the perfect sentiment to end this article. I couldn’t have said it any better.

“A child is not an invader, though, a parasite living off his mother. A mother’s womb is the baby’s natural environment…One trespasses when he’s not in his rightful place, but a baby developing in the womb belongs there.” [xiii]


[i] I am not a legal scholar, judge, nor lawyer. I could be entirely wrong about this whole train of thought, however, I am willing to stick my neck out and stand according to what I do know and believe to be true. In this sense, I am relying on common sense and moral justice as my guides.

[ii] https://mises.org/profile/murray-n-rothbard

[iii] Murray N. Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty (New York: New York University Press, ©1998), 98.

[iv] https://thelawdictionary.org/trespasser/

[v] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trespasser

[vi] I use the term “womb” to include the entire reproductive system of the female body.

[vii] Martin Armstrong writes this which closely parallels what I have outlined above. “In law school, they teach you that the Due Process of Law comes from the Bible. God already knew what happened between Cain and Able. He still granted him the Due Process of Law to (1) summon him providing notice and (2) the right to be heard. We no longer allow Due Process of Law. We presume guilt and condemn people without trial.”

[viii] https://www.lifenews.com/2017/05/15/pro-lifers-arrested-for-blocking-entrance-to-the-last-abortion-clinic-in-kentucky/

[ix] I hadn’t read this poem in close to fifty years until I started researching this article, but I still remembered most of it. “Fury said to a mouse that he met in the house…” I wish I could have met Lewis Carroll.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouse_(Alice%27s_Adventures_in_Wonderland)

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice’s_Adventures_in_Wonderland#Publication_history

[xi] For my view on this, see here and here.

[xii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-crime

[xiii] https://www.str.org/articles/unstringing-the-violinist#.XEp7os1lBPZ

Correcting the Terminology of Abortion: Parasites and Trespassers Defined, Part 1

[Editor’s Note: This was originally published as one article, but has been split in two. Nothing in the content has been changed, except to facilitate the division. See here to view Part 2.]

Introduction

“To hold individuals guilty of crimes they couldn’t have committed is a moral obscenity.”–Robert Gore

Within the abortion debate, it is not uncommon that unborn children are called either parasites or trespassers, sometimes both. This article seeks to prove in a straight-forward manner that this idea is wrong. It is nothing more than an attempt to marginalize and dehumanize the unborn child in order to justify a position.

“… given that the fetus is unwanted, it is in effect a trespasser or a parasite.”Walter Block/Roy Whitehead[i]

“What human has the right to remain, unbidden, as an unwanted parasite within some other human being’s body? This is the nub of the issue: the absolute right of every person and hence every woman, to the ownership of her own body. What the mother is doing in an abortion is causing an unwanted entity within her body to be ejected from it: If the fetus dies, this does not rebut the point that no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person’s body.– Murray Rothbard[ii]

Whether she is wanted or not is irrelevant. The unborn child is neither a parasite nor a trespasser.

Unfortunately, these men have based their claims on “property rights”, i.e., the woman owns her own body (property) and can do with it whatever she wishes. The “right” of the fetus to own her body is discarded out of hand. They assert that property rights are all that matter. Morality (the sense of right and wrong) does not enter the picture. In the case of abortion on demand, rights have become more important than what is right.

Section I: Parasites

Parasites, biological and social

The number of types of parasites can be numbered–there are two. Only two. Biological and social. See here[iii] for a typical definition of the term. Unborn children are neither.

Parasites (biological) are not a part of the host. They do not derive from it and are not related to it. In fact, they are a species which is completely different from the host. They draw nourishment and sustenance out of the host, debilitating and weakening it. They give nothing back. If they grow and/or reproduce unchecked, they can, and sometimes do, literally kill the host. A tapeworm is a parasite. Mistletoe is a parasite. Lice and bedbugs are parasites. A fetus is not.

Unborn fetuses DO draw nourishment and sustenance from the woman, via the umbilical cord, but they are not a threat to the woman under normal circumstances. They are not a different species. They are related to the host (mother). They derive half their DNA from her, but they are not[iv] a part of her. The only time that a woman is threatened by the fetus is due to an ectopic pregnancy or (perhaps) other complications brought on during the pregnancy.

Biologically speaking, a fetus cannot be a parasite.

Parasites (social) are another sort entirely. They are human beings who prey on other human beings. They may or may not be related. They may attach exclusively to one person or draw from more than one. They have a desire to be supported by others and have their wants and needs filled by them. They know their current (preferred) lifestyle would suffer if the parasite/host attachment were severed for any reason. One common characteristic of social parasites is the selfish belief that other human beings exist for their benefit and should be used to that effect. They are users of people and seek to control them for personal gain. Taken to an extreme, this becomes an “all for me, none for you” attitude and way of life. In an unrelated but not entirely irrelevant article, Brandon Smith describes it like this[v].

This attitude can also be seen in the common actions of narcissistic sociopaths, who have no qualms about conning or exploiting people around them as resources, feeding off others like parasites” 

To some degree, all of us are social parasites. Everyone, at one time or another in his life, uses someone else for personal gain or benefit. This type of action, for most of us, tends to be minimized as we grow older and wiser and it can be personally overcome to a large degree.

It is commonly accepted that fetuses do not have any consciousness of their own until they have developed sufficiently[vi], probably not until very late in the pregnancy. How can a fetus (which is not aware of its situation and surroundings) use someone else selfishly? How can a fetus which has not attained the characteristic of self-consciousness be a parasite? Quite simply, it can’t. It does not knowingly use anyone else for its benefit. It knows nothing except what has always been, i.e., the womb and a state of total dependence. It will never know anything differently until and unless it is born and (gradually, progressively) taught to become independent.

In the timeline of the unborn baby/newborn baby/small child/teenager/adult, the individual progresses from complete dependence on her mother to a state of some degree of independence. If she is considered a parasite before birth, at what point does she cease to be one? What is the point in a person’s life where she does not need or depend on anyone else? When does a person stop “taking” and start “giving”? Everyone takes more at the beginning, but eventually we learn (hopefully) to give more than we take. It can be argued that we live on a sliding scale, one end being total dependence, the other total independence. The only choice we have is where we live on that scale and that is determined through a lifetime of personal change, either positive or negative, with varying degrees of success.


[i] [i] Block, Walter E. and Roy Whitehead. 2005. “Compromising the Uncompromisable: A Private Property Rights Approach to Resolving the Abortion Controversy,” Appalachian Law Review, 4 (2) 1-45

[ii] https://mises.org/sites/default/files/For%20a%20New%20Liberty%20The%20Libertarian%20Manifesto_3.pdf

[iii] https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/parasite

[iv] https://catholicvote.org/10-reasons-the-unborn-is-not-a-part-of-a-womans-body/

[v] https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-02-07/brandon-smith-secular-look-destructive-globalist-belief-system

[vi] https://thebrainbank.scienceblog.com/2012/12/04/what-can-science-add-to-the-abortion-debate/

The Political/Scientific Divide of Abortion

There are two aspects of the abortion debate we need to be concerned about in determining the definition of an unborn child: biological and political. Humanity and person-hood are two different things and we must be careful not to confuse them.

On the biological side, there should be no argument about the humanity of the child, no matter its age. See here. Embryonic biology confirms 100% that a new, unique, human, individual comes into being at the fusion of the sperm and egg cells. This is objective, fixed, and permanent. It is based on science–cold, hard facts.

On the political side, there is the question about person-hood, which is an arbitrary, subjective decision. It is fluid and can mean different things at different times, depending on the fickle whims of the populace or its rulers. This is what we are dealing with in our current debate on abortion, not the humanity of the unborn fetus. See here with my reply to Walter Block concerning a snippet he wrote about the meaning of the libertarian philosophy.

Michael Rozeff has written about creating a new definition—nascent human—attempting to define the time when an unborn child becomes human and therefore legally protected from abortion. See here, here, and most recently, here. During a brief e-mail conversation between Rozeff and myself, he asked the question, “Is the category of nascent-human plausible or specious?”

Merriam-Webster defines nascent as ‘coming or having recently come into existence’, which can easily describe a zygote or embryo, but the fact remains that while the term ‘nascent’ might apply at the very beginning, it must be discarded at some point. When and at what stage of development does that occur? Can that even be determined? When does a nascent human become a full-blown human? Who is going to make the decision?  This plays into the political argument, but not the biological one and is no different than trying to determine at what stage an unborn fetus becomes a person. Brain waves? Heartbeat? Viability at 24 weeks? Or maybe 26? As such, it will constantly change and reflect the mindset of societies in the future as the thinking about abortion changes. This is not solid ground on which to base an argument and Rozeff is in danger of losing his footing.

The social trend toward moral subjectivity and away from moral objectivity has not done us any favors. We need to change that as concerns the humanity of the unborn child. It is a human being, no matter what anyone thinks, and, as such, merits protection against the aggression of abortion, which results in the death of an innocent human being, which is murder according to Rozeff’s definition. The descriptive terms—nascent, potential, developing, etc.—are irrelevant. This is not to say they are not accurate, but as far as concerns the humanity of the unborn child, they are irrelevant.

The abortion war can be settled once we decide to stop defining the unborn embryo or fetus in political (subjective) terms and start defining it according to biology (objective). Born or unborn, a human being is a human being. End of argument. So long as we focus on whether it is a person or not, we will have abortions and the legal murders of countless human beings. The attitude of the general public is what will change the dynamic of abortion, not because laws are passed, but because already born individual, human beings decide to do what is right and refuse to be a part of that murderous lifestyle any longer.

Is this wishful thinking or a pipe dream? I think not. Tides advance and they retreat. So do societal and moral values. I am under no illusions about the length of time it may take, but I am certain that abortions will one day, someday, again be verboten, because, as a society, we understand what is right and are willing to act on that understanding.

Conjoined Twins, Property Rights, and the Abortion Issue

In an article [i] on property rights concerning conjoined twins, Walter Block and Jeremiah Dyke [ii] have raised some interesting questions and thoughts. See here to read the full essay. Many of them could easily be applied to the abortion issue without doing much more than simply changing a few words here or there. I do not necessarily have any argument with the authors concerning the issue of conjoined twins, but wanted to draw attention to the ease with which the arguments could apply to the abortion debate.

“Though an individual has the right to not be physically aggressed against, he does not have the right to demand someone help or save him if he is being physically aggressed against.”–Dyke and Block

Though a woman has the right to not be pregnant against her will, she does not have the right to demand someone help or save her if she is pregnant against her will. If she does not have the right to demand that someone help or save her from the predicament she finds herself in, then she does not have the authority to demand that abortion be legal or that she be allowed to kill her unborn child for any reason she finds suitable.

This is especially relevant since women everywhere are literally demanding that society, culture, and State grant them help and salvation in their quest to be non-pregnant. No one, least of all a more powerful government, should be able to force a woman to be pregnant, but it does not follow that she can manipulate government to allow the use of force to kill her unborn child. Dyke and Block should examine their positions to ensure that all of their statements are consistent with each other.

“…who owns the body if it is under the control of two wills? Is it even intelligible to consider property under duel ownership of two wills?—Dyke and Block

Who owns the body of the fetus if it is under the control of the fetus—the mother or the child? For that matter, who owns the body of the mother if it is under the control of the developing fetus? Is the body of the mother under the control of the fetus or the mother? There is no disputing that the physical condition of the woman changes as the pregnancy progresses, but is this an act of aggression on the part of the unborn child or just a natural response to the pregnancy?

“Are there limits of a dominant twin based on the demands of the other twin?”—Dyke and Block


Are there limits of a dominant will based on the demands of the other submissive will? Dyke and Block were concerned about the limitations of property rights of conjoined twins, but what happens if we compare this question to that of a pregnancy in which there are also two individuals sharing a physical connection? Are there any limits to a woman’s will based on the demands of an unborn child’s? What are the unspoken, yet proven demands of the unborn child? There are only three: time, proper nutrition, and protection. Take away any of one of these three and the life of the child is placed in jeopardy. Take away all of them, according to legally defined abortion laws, and there are virtually no limits placed on the woman as regards these demands.

“Could one twin commit a crime while the other was innocent?”—Block/Dyke

In the case of conjoined twins, this might be a dilemma. It is entirely possible that one twin could completely overrule or overpower the other in committing a crime. In the event of this happening, the only defense possible by the non-dominant twin would be that of unwillingness. “I didn’t want to, but he made me do it!”

In the event of pregnancy and abortion, there is no question. This is not even a valid question. One party (the woman) can absolutely commit a vicious, murderous act while the other (the unborn child) would be completely innocent, but without recourse or appeal to law.

“What, if any, are the limits of restitution and punishment regarding conjoined twins?”—Dyke and Block

If this question were applied to the abortion issue, it would be laughed out of court. The fact of the matter is that the fetus pays the ultimate price and the amount of restitution (subjectively determined) depends on the way the woman lives her life thereafter. Does she gain enough from the abortion to more than make up for the “crime” against her bodily integrity? How are the costs assessed? How is the reparation made? Does the punishment fit the crime or is it excessive?

“Could one twin legally end his life if it meant the end of both of their lives?”—Dyke and Block

In America, under today’s laws, women cannot legally commit suicide in most cases. If they could and were pregnant, it would inevitably mean the death of the unborn child. However, in whatever form it appears, Truth does not tolerate any inconsistencies, hypocrisies, or contradictions. The fact that women cannot legally commit suicide, but can legally kill their unborn children is inconsistent and therefore intolerable. As such, it will eventually be resolved in one of two ways:

  1. Abortion which kills children will eventually be outlawed and prosecuted as criminal, or,
  2. Suicide will be made legal for anyone (adults, at least) regardless of circumstances.

“Could one twin enter into a contract without the consent of the other?”—Dyke and Block

Could one conjoined twin get married without the consent of the other? How would that happen? Assuming that the conjoined twins were female with a shared body and two heads, would the consummation of the marriage be considered rape on the part of the unwilling twin? What if a pregnancy occurred as a result of that consummation? Could the unwilling twin be able to claim the “right” of abortion and terminate the pregnancy against the wishes of the “mother”? If the child were carried to term and delivered, would she have “two mommies”? Would the unwilling twin be called “Auntie”?

What a can of worms! Perhaps we should turn our attention elsewhere.

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“Conflicts arise, whenever two actors want and try to use one and the same physical means – the same body, standing room or external object for the attainment of different goals, i.e., when their interests regarding such means are not harmonious but incompatible or antagonistic. Two actors cannot at the same time use the same physical means for alternative purposes. If they try to do so, they must clash. Only one person’s will or that of another can prevail, but not both.” –Herman-Hoppe, Ethics of Argumentation [iii]

Herman-Hoppe is correct in his assessment of conflict. In the abortion war, it simply means the idea that women can kill their unborn children is dominant and accepted, or it is unacceptable and going to be contested. Only one view, not both, is going to prevail, and because tides and opinions change, it is probable that what is seen to prevail today will, in all likelihood, be subjugated tomorrow.

The conflict arises when we try to reduce human beings to a concept of property without any sense of moral grounding. Under some libertarian theory, human beings own their own bodies and can do whatever they wish, so long as they don’t act aggressively toward someone else. (See here for a differing opinion.) By extension, because every human being owns his (her) own body, no other human being can own it, thereby eliminating any invalid form of slavery. Involuntary servitude may sometimes be allowed, even mandated for one reason or another, but only in the pursuit of criminal justice.  

The conflict rages when two actors (born woman, unborn woman) want and try to use the same body for different goals, i.e., when one does not wish to be pregnant and the other needs the space in order to develop. Whose will is dominant? Whose “rights” are protected? Whose “freedoms” are violated? When abortion is legal, the pregnancy is ended by the killing of the dependent child who is unable to defend herself against the aggression.

The pregnancy may be ended, but the conflict is not resolved. [iv] The abortion war is fought, not by the ones who die, but by those who don’t. The fact that many innocent civilians are killed without regard for their lives is not greatly different than two large, political powers supporting, encouraging, and abetting various factions in small, weak countries, e.g., Syria, Yemen, or Venezuela, among others. The locals pay the price, the string-pullers reap the benefits.

Abortion is not an issue of property rights. Instead, it rises out of a moral and spiritual question—good or evil, and the dispute will continue until one side or the other is completely beaten and disappears forever. In other words, not until the end of time itself. In the meantime, we must do what we believe to be right and try to minimize the number of casualties inflicted.

So long as abortion on demand is with us, there is no compromise. No matter how pretty a face we try to put on it, in the end all we are doing is painting lipstick on a pig.


[i] Jeremiah Dyke & Walter E. Block, “Explorations in Property Rights: Conjoined Twins,”Libertarian Papers3, 38 (2011)

[ii] Jeremiah Dyke (jeremiahdyke@gmail.com) is Instructor of Mathematics, Lord Fairfax Community College.Walter E. Block (www.WalterBlock.com; wblock@loyno.edu) is Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Prof. of Economics, College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans and a Senior Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

[iii] . https://misesuk.org/2016/10/09/hans-hermann-hoppe-the-ethics-of-argumentation-2016/

[iv] Similar to the Korean War. See here.