Abortion Statism

Fox-Genovese betrays her allegiance when she claims that “most Americans willingly acknowledged that easily available, publicly funded abortion would deter society from punishing women whose new sexual opportunities led them into a mistake.” Publicly funded, huh? Let me use the standard labels for a bit. Liberals claim that conservatives practice repression: they aren’t satisfied with just leading righteous lives, as they see it, themselves and avoid abortions; they want to force women who do not subscribe to their moral view also not to have abortions. Yet here we have liberals not only wanting conservatives to endure the sight of dead babies in their midst but also pay for killing them! How are liberals not repressive, the very vice they accuse conservatives of?

Abortion for Blacks?

Fox-Genovese points out: “Planned Parenthood still reminds potential contributors about how much the pregnancies of poor unmarried women cost taxpayers, suggesting that the wide availability of birth control and abortion will reduce the bill.” Well, let’s spell it out, shall we, lest there be any confusion. This is obviously about blacks. Liberals view the spread of blacks as a natural disaster, like plague of locusts. Is that reasonable? I don’t know, but that abortion has been justified as a measure to prune the black population is certainly true. The steps from permitting black women to abort their children to forcing them to abort to, finally, sterilizing them seem to follow naturally.

The most ridiculous thing is that this despotic and inhuman ideology could have been avoided, if we had economic laissez-faire. For under freedom, everyone is responsible for their own children. There are ruthless market incentives against irresponsible sex.

So, first, liberals chose to give (other people’s) money to women for having illegitimate children out of “compassion.” The psychology of races is such that blacks were encouraged to have many more such children than whites. Black fathers were often much stricter with their daughters than white fathers with theirs, and for a good reason. In the end, they couldn’t save the situation. Mix in the drug war, the black guys’ naturally greater violent tendencies (hey, as Kramer said in Seinfeld, “Mother nature is a mad scientist”), especially when fatherless, and we have our locusts.

The liberals were horrified by this. Of course, coercive “compassion” had to stay. Still, liberals became “concerned about overpopulation by ‘poor’ and ‘minority’ children.” Since we live in a scientific age (especially in which the government is imagined to be able to successfully manage the economy), their second step was to attempt to find methods to stem the tide of black bastards, so that “they” would not supplant “us.” And we wonder why some blacks think the CIA is selling crack in their communities!

“Culture of Death”

As follows from the previous note, not using man-made contraceptives entails a “pro-life” attitude, a state of mind that affirms humanity. It’s a healthy philosophy of life or ideology, as wholesome as libertarianism is compared to evil conservatism and stupid left-liberalism.

When John Paul II mentioned the culture of death with respect to contraceptives, he is to be understood in a sense different from such a culture with respect to abortion. This is because for birth control, children are never conceived in the first place and therefore, cannot die. The Pope was referring to the death of the human race.

Perpetuation of the species is a different thing altogether from individual search for happiness. Sometimes the two are in conflict, and when such is the case, the conflict must be wisely resolved.

It is certainly true that any single person’s decisions regarding his own procreation cannot be held responsible for the fate of the human race. If we are to go extinct, this particular Smith was not the cause of it. Therefore, again, using NFP in married life is a matter of piety, of something given to God according to justice, in God’s capacity as an authority over His most valuable creation, the human race. Smith will not bring about the continuation of our species, but he will at least practice what he preaches.

Quickening As a Cutoff Point for Legitimate Abortion

I think I understand why some ancients considered quickening or the mother’s feeling the baby inside her moving to be the cutoff point for legitimate abortion. That is because the primal definition of the soul is the principle of self-motion, and when the child begins to move on its own, it is a sign that at least the animal soul has been implanted into or has developed in it. At this point the child in a sense becomes its own master, separate from its mother, choosing — perhaps at first by instinct, but choosing nonetheless — what it wants to do.

If it is objected that lower animals move, too, yet it is not wrong to kill them, then the reply is simply that it is wrong to abort only moving human fetuses.

Before quickening, the fetus is like a plant; after it, it becomes an animal. Now a human being is a rational animal, and a fetus is not yet rational, but we all agree it is unlawful to aggress against newborns who are also not yet rational but already animals.

Hence, the difference between a pre-quickening fetus and a child is in kind, and the difference between a post-quickening fetus and a child is in degree. The different treatment vis-à-vis abortion follows and might be attempted to be justified according to this criterion.

Alternatively, quickening is a sign that the rational soul is about to be infused into the fetus, at which point the soul becomes fully human and immortal.

Christianity Does Not Entail Criminalization of Abortion

I agree that abortion is a great sin in Christian understanding.

But whether abortion ought to be criminalized by the state is an issue of secular political philosophy and economic calculation of costs and benefits of particular laws, areas in which Christians have no inherently greater authority than non-Christians.

The Christians’ unique divine grace confers upon them no special expertise in any natural science.

Nor should their hatred of sin cloud their judgment in regard to what should be considered to be violent crimes to be punished by the authorities and how. Unjust or unfitting government violence is itself a grievous sin.

Abortion: Vindicating Rothbard

Rothbard has seized upon an important but accidental feature of human procreation, namely, that the child is attached to the mother.

One consequence is that a Proper Rothbardian abortion would proceed as follows: (a) the child is carefully extracted from the womb, alive and well, placed near the mother, and then slowly dies from exposure and lack of nutrients, if no one is willing to pick it up.

But don’t actual abortions occur in a different way, viz., (b) the child is killed inside the womb, and the remains are sucked out? Rothbard himself writes that “a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children,” but do not most abortions do exactly that?

Furthermore, praxeologically, (a) and (b) constitute a distinction without a difference. The child dies either way, and the parents go home happy either way. A non-philosopher may well ask what the big deal is in this hair-splitting.

Thus, the question of whether unborn children have rights does not become irrelevant even if we use Rothbard’s approach.

Here’s the formal argument.

(1): Rothbard: “a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children.”

(2) According to a non-philosopher, either both (a) and (b) are permissible or neither (a) nor (b) is permissible.

(3) A pro-life person would disallow both; a pro-choice libertarian would seem to be committed to disallowing (b) only.

(4) Only the pro-life position appears at first glance to be consistent.

Here’s another illustration. Let Smith be trespassing on Jones’ property. (i) = Jones’ bouncers escort Smith out. (ii) = Jones kills Smith and dumps his corpse in a public waste disposal site.

Clearly, these are very different. (i) is obviously Ok, (ii) is obviously not.

But in the case of abortion, (a) and (b) are almost indistinguishable. What is Ok and what is not Ok is no longer “obvious.”

A clue toward a Rothbardian reply can be found in his debate with Jim Sadowsky:

“Sadowsky is worried about ejecting a stowaway on an airplane. Yes, I suppose that would be ‘overkill,’ to coin a pun. But the point here is that, just as an assault on someone’s body is a more heinous crime than the theft of his property, so the trespassing on or within a person’s body is a far more heinous trespass that merely strolling on his land or stowing away on an aircraft. For the crime of trespassing within a person’s body, any means necessary to evict the trespasser should be legitimate.”

Any means, including (b). So, (b) is legitimate, if it is the only way to abort. Hence, the argument fails at (3). The parent is not aggressing against the fetus but is defending herself. If Smith, instead of walking on Jones’ land, was a demon who tried to possess Jones’ body, then surely, Jones would be justified in killing the demon.

On this reasoning, abortion of type (a) is permissible for the less controversial (in libertarian circles) reason of the rights of the mother to her body.

Abortion of type (b) is permissible for perhaps somewhat more dubious reason of self-defense: the mother is defending herself against a dangerous parasite who is preying on her, and if she has to kill it to get it out, then so be it.

Abortion: Evictionism vs. Self-Defense

Stated differently, since most abortions are not Proper Rothbardian / Blockian and of type (b) (or praxeologically very similar to type (b)), evictionism is a pleasant theory — one which I like a lot — but it’s inapplicable to real-world situations.

The theory that is actually used to justify abortions — by none other than Rothbard himself — i.e., the self-defense theory, is one which reasonable libertarians can disagree about. Statements like “an assault on someone’s body is a more heinous crime than the theft of his property” already entail that the difference is not in kind but in degree, and we can immediately ask whether the killing of the fetus is proportional to the woman’s injury, etc.

Again, the Sadowsky debate shows how great a role raw intuitive emotions play in this issue.

On the one hand, we have Sadowsky’s stowaway on the airplane. Of course, it would be crazy for the pilot to insist on his property right and throw the poor guy overboard.

On the other hand, we have Rothbard’s pianist hooked up to your kidneys. Moreover, you’ve been kidnapped. I imagine you lie in some Matrix-like cradle with wires coming out of your body to sustain the pianist. In this situation, I’ll be damned if I let this continue. To hell with the pianist; I’m ripping the wires off and getting out of there!

Pregnancy is clearly somewhere in between. Therefore, the correct answer is harder to discover.

This middle ground between the Sadowsky’s example and Rothbard’s is a slippery slope in both directions. Here’s how we can slip toward the Sadowsky’s extreme. Smith is seriously ill, and Jones is paying to prolong his life. With this help, Smith is estimated to live for 9 months; if Jones stops paying, then Smith will die within days. If Sadowsky is to be taken seriously, then we must conclude that Jones has no legal right to quit paying. And that seems deeply wrong. However, slippery slopes can and should be resisted.

Abortion: Sterility of Evictionism

The following two scenarios further clarify my proposal that abortion lies midway between Sadowsky’s view and Rothbard’s.

1. You are flying a medium-sized airplane while participating in a race which is important for your career. You’re pretty confident you can win. For some reason, the plane feels sluggish. You turn around and see a stowaway, a fat guy just sitting there staring at you. You realize that with this bastard on board, you’re going to lose. Yet we probably agree that despite the high costs that the stowaway imposes on you, you still can’t get rid of him. Could a similar argument be made in the case of abortion?

2. Smith was shipwrecked on a desert island which over the years he has thoroughly homesteaded. Then Jones gets shipwrecked near the island, swims ashore, and is greeted by Smith who tells him: “This is my island. You are trespassing on private property. Go back where you came from. Go swim in the ocean.” Does Smith have the right to do that, or is it murder?

By the way, I doubt these examples are original; I’m sure these issues have been discussed by libertarians before.

It seems to follow that when a “career woman” has an abortion so she may focus on climbing the ladder, that may be made illegal. Similarly, perhaps a girl wants to get married well, and if she has (especially illegitimate) children, then her prospects will be dim. Perhaps abortion for such a reason, too, should be legally proscribed.

It’s interesting how after a detour into evictionism, we have landed straight in the middle of the general controversy. Abortion is not Ok for the sake of convenience but is permitted if the mother’s life is in danger or in cases of rape and incest or …

Evictionism is theoretically important but turns out practically to be of little value.

I’ve distinguished between abortions of type (a) or Proper Blockian abortions, in which the fetus is unambiguously and in full health expelled, and abortions of type (b), where the fetus is destroyed inside the womb and the remains are sucked out. Now suppose that human biology worked in such a way that the dead fetus could not be extracted (though perhaps a live one could be); rather, the mother digested the remains. Clearly, in (b) no eviction of any kind any longer happens. Smith does not escort Jones out onto a public road; he kills Jones and dissolves his body in a vat of acid right there on his property. Does the woman really have the right to kill the trespasser and eat its flesh?