On Evictionism, and Abortion

In the history of libertarian theory, a number of absolutely abhorrent ideas have been proposed as “the” libertarian ideal on parental rights and responsibility. Everything from partial birth abortion, to “evictionism”, to assault, to letting children starve to death, and beyond. It is absolutely sickening for me, one who is not easily offended, much less made queasy, some of the things libertarians have attempted to justify in this particular field of libertarian thinking. I can only imagine how it comes across to those who are not yet convinced of libertarianism’s virtues. So many people are so concerned about the image of libertarianism, that they would attempt to alter its core principles. I say perhaps they should join me in addressing this topic using those principles instead.



I’ll be the first to recognize, that using provocative and even abhorrent concepts to wake people up can be an effective tactic. In many cases, offending someone is a way to make them think about a subject they would not have otherwise considered. It is also important not to condemn the radical thinker for stumbling across a seemingly abhorrent idea, and throwing it out there for the world to analyze. By putting the terrible idea out there, he invites criticism, and that criticism may well lead to the next breakthrough that makes the world a better place. Please keep this in mind as I thrash the opinions of two people I deeply respect in the following paragraphs.

I’ll also recognize that parenting can be a terribly difficult subject to tackle. We’re talking about balancing a child’s right to his body and life, with a parents right to their body, and life, and property, all things libertarianism holds equally sacred, in addition to traditions that libertarianism need not take a back seat to, but ought to treat with a certain level of respect. I just don’t see how piercing the skulls of infants, leaving undeveloped fetuses out in the elements, or starving toddlers to death, helps address it.

This stems largely from the idea that a parent has no implicit obligation to the child. In large part, we can thank Murray Rothbard for this. From Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty;

It has been objected that since the mother originally consented to the conception, the mother has therefore “contracted” its status with the fetus, and may not “violate” that “contract” by having an abortion. There are many problems with this doctrine, however. In the first place, as we shall see further below, a mere promise is not an enforceable contract: contracts are only properly enforceable if their violation involves implicit theft, and clearly no such consideration can apply here. Secondly, there is obviously no “contract” here, since the fetus (fertilized ovum?) can hardly be considered a voluntarily and consciously contracting entity. And thirdly as we have seen above, a crucial point in libertarian theory is the inalienability of the will, and therefore the impermissibility of enforcing voluntary slave contracts. Even if this had been a “contract,” then, it could not be enforced because a mother’s will is inalienable, and she cannot legitimately be enslaved into carrying and having a baby against her will.

This appeals to the pro abortion crowd, but I hope those folks will see how awful this line of thinking becomes with this later paragraph from the same book;

Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.[4] The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.[5] (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)?[6] The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)

I find it amusing that one chooses to write a book titled “The Ethics of Liberty” then fails to address the immorality of starving a child to death. Amusement aside, the level of depravity that this would require far exceeds that of the common murderer. To put a gun to a grown mans head and pull the trigger, to me seems far more civilized than to watch and listen as an infant starves to death over the course of days and weeks. I of course don’t advocate for either, but I hope you can appreciate the comparison. There is a reason society panics when we hear stories of a young mother putting her newborn baby in a dumpster. To have such people in our society rightly shocks us, because they have such a disregard for human life that they pose a threat to others, especially the weakest and most helpless amongst us.

Walter Block makes a similar case in his argument for what he calls “evictionism” as some alternative to the traditional pro life vs. pro choice dynamic on abortion.

Moving past the pro-life versus pro-choice issue, I offered the libertarian position of evictionism, which provides the best compromise on this issue. In a nutshell, the argument for evictionism is as follows:

  1. The unborn fetus is trespassing into the womb of the woman.
  2. The rights of all fetuses are equal.
  3. Therefore, the only right choice would be evicting the fetus. Killing it would be wrong.

Both go on to rightly point out that in a free market, there would be a demand for babies. Be it from homosexual couples, or people who are infertile for whatever reason, or folks who are single and just want a child, or any number of reasons. There exists no shortage of people in this world who love children. So absent State regulation, transferring rights to, and responsibility for, a child whether for a fee or any number of other reasons, would be very easily accomplished. This stands in stark contrast to the world we presently live in, where adoption can be a costly and complicated and time consuming process, causing millions of American children to be slain in abortion clinics or brought up as wards of the State, while parents import children from all over the world.

Surely, Rothbard and Block propose solutions far superior to those the State presently provides us with, and for this we can thank them for their contributions to making the world a better place.

However, being better than the options the State presently provides does not a libertarian ideal make. Saying for example that a 10% sales tax would be superior to the present income tax laws in America is a true statement. Many who call themselves libertarians would agree with this, but taxes, however low and easy to understand, will always be less than libertarian because they are coercive.

Block and Rothbard both make the case that life begins at conception. I’m not sure that this is true, but absent some scientific breakthrough that properly defines a human life it is not a libertarian justice system’s place to say. Whether or not I know when life begins, is the same question as whether or not I know someone is on the other side of a door before I put a bullet through it. If I fire a gun through a closed door, and on the other side a life is lost, I am responsible for that life. If the life lost is that of an intruder, I am justified. If the life lost is that of a guest, spouse, or child, then I can expect to be brought to justice in a free society by the agents of whomever I have killed.

Aside from the parents and the general moral outlook of the society at large, an unborn child has no agents. He has produced nothing to exchange for protection, and in any case he lacks capacity to make contracts. Due to this, women may always rest assured that for better or worse, libertarianism will forever lack the capacity to punish abortion, or eviction of a fetus. For those of us who see abortion as a terrible act of violence against the most helpless in our society, our only recourse is ostracism.

We can no more do violence to a woman who aborts or evicts her fetus, than we can to a husband who strikes a wife who apologizes for making him hit her. Libertarianism recognizes that the man has no right to strike the woman, but if the woman does not call out for justice, then the society at large has no agency in the matter. If she chooses to live as an abused spouse, we may all recognize that this is a terrible thing, but we have no right to force some other lifestyle upon her, or to take her husband from her, just because we disagree with their choices. Just as we lack agency in the case of the abused spouse, we lack agency in the case of the aborted or evicted fetus.

So to the question of justice in the case of abortion or eviction, libertarianism is lacking. Some will find this good, some will find this evil, and in this regard it is no different than any number of matters such as racism, sexism, or homophobia. Non-aggression cares not for aesthetics.

Thus, the question is a moral and philosophical one. Libertarianism is more than a justice system, it is a standard of conduct. If I murder an adult, and nobody catches me, then I will escape justice in a libertarian society. This does not mean it is permissible for me to murder in secret. And so the question returns to the parent’s moral obligation to the child, which Rothbard neglects to address.

Block makes the case that all fetuses have the same rights, and because of this, an egg fertilized by a rapist, is equal to an egg fertilized by a consenting partner. This is an interesting argument for sure. In the case of rape, the fetus in question did no violence to its host. That act of violence was committed by the rapist, and the life now growing inside the mother is an innocent one. To kill the rapist would be seen as justice, but to kill the infant would be murder, assuming that life begins at conception, which is the case that Block makes.

If we accept this, then evictionism makes a great deal of sense. We have no right to kill the child, but if it is unwanted, we can expel it, come what may.

I take issue however with both Rothbard and Block’s case that consensual sex does not bind mother to child, or for that matter, father to child. To them, an unwanted infant is a parasite and a trespasser no matter how it arrived. By this math we do not require evictionism, we could kill the infant like any traditional abortion.

I need not inquire as to the intentions of a intruder inside my home. Maybe he didn’t set out to harm me, maybe he was just drunk and stumbled into the wrong house, maybe someone else beat him senseless and dropped him on my front lawn, how he got there is not my concern. What level of force I use to expel him is at my discretion. Whether I shout for him to leave, or drag his corpse out the back door is entirely my decision because the intruder has violated my property and I am justified in protecting it. I am not obligated to put myself in harm’s way by notifying him of my location, or trying to lay hands on him, the potential threat to my safety inside my own home is justification enough for deadly force.

If I invited him into my home, this becomes a radically different equation.

There is no question that pregnancy is a life threatening condition to women. Countless women have died over the years due to complications caused by pregnancy, and while medical advancements have made this much less frequent, the threat has not been eliminated. Thus, if we accept that consensual sex does not bind mother and father to child, then an unwanted fetus is not only a parasite, and trespasser, but also a potential threat to the life of the mother, and thus, deadly force is justified.

So we may say that evictionism and abortion are matters of mere preference. Just as I may opt to throw the living intruder out of my home, or drag his lifeless body to the trash heap according to my own system of values, then if I am justified to expel the parasitic uterine infection of the fetus, I am also justified in terminating its life, according to the same.

I do not accept this. As I write this document, it is April 19th 2014. There are no human beings of child bearing age alive today who do not know where babies come from. To say that consensual sex does not bind both mother and father to child, is to say we may murder guests in our home, and to throw off all responsibility for one’s actions.

To say that one can create a child, then cease to care for it, reasonably expecting this will result in the child’s death, is the same as saying that one may recklessly dispose of a bomb. If I decide to prepare for the zombie apocalypse by building pipe bombs in my garage, then lose interest after the season finale of The Walking Dead, I cannot simply throw my improvised explosive devices in the trash can and wait for the garbage man to come. I know that those bombs have the potential to destroy, and I should reasonably expect that the garbage truck’s trash compactor could cause them to detonate, killing the trash collector. Call it murder, call it manslaughter, call it criminally negligent homicide, the result is the same, an innocent life lost due to my carelessness. Modern law rightfully provides that I should be held accountable, and so would the agents of the trash collector in the absence of the State.

The fact that the infant has no agent in the State’s absence, has no bearing on the rights of the child or responsibilities of a parent. By creating the bomb, I become responsible either for its proper storage and disposal, or for the life and property it destroys. By creating the child I become responsible either for its proper care and feeding, or for its death. The only way I can escape responsibility for either is to get someone else to accept it.

When one sets in motion a course of events that they reasonably expect will cause the death of another, and a death does in fact occur, they become a killer. If abortion be the one crime libertarianism cannot punish, so be it, but let us not become cold blooded advocates of child abandonment, by glossing over the fact that it is an unspeakably horrific act of irreparable violence to murder helpless innocent babies with our carelessness.

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  • Hank Henker

    Libertarianism may not be able to punish abortion or child murder via neglect, but as touched on, libertarinaism can create a world where its so rare as to be much less of a concern.

    • state hater

      I have had very similar thoughts.

      First and foremost, although young children and animals cannot sign contracts, it is very likely that people who are depraved enough to abuse and/or neglect children and/or animals will be much rarer in a voluntaryist world.

      Second, the few such individuals who would still exist in such a world would be dealt with via ostracism and economic sanctions. In a voluntary society, a woman who left her baby in a dumpster, or someone like Michael Vick, would have a very hard time obtaining food and other necessities, and would likely be persuaded to check themselves into an asylum.

    • You are complaining that your liberty movement can’t condemn certain kinds of behavior. I wonder if you could ever have the capacity to appreciate that kind of irony?

  • SamuelAdams1776

    I like the way you think Christopher. I think that youre what I call a natural thinker, meaning that your line of thought is not based on any orthodoxy or over examination, but just comes from the heart. Most people think this way but due to the manipulation and early programing by the state schools have a cognitive dissonance and are too lazy or gutless to self reflect.

  • Crazy Lou

    I am not sure in entirety what you said, but I like a great deal of your thinking.

  • Michael Shanklin

    “Block and Rothbard both make the case that life begins at conception.”
    ~Technically, a lack of life was never a plausible reality… the sperm is technically alive, the egg is technically alive… they just merge/join. The question, “when does the new life come about?” Well it appears that when 2 live entities (egg and sperm) meet, that they aren’t creating a new life, they are just joining to continue life with a soon to be new human mind/body. Life technically never stops nor begins (except for death) as long as the seeds and eggs continue to flow… just something to think about… Our egg and sperm that make us have come from the life of thousands of generations of joining and separating. It’s more like continual osmosis and symbiosis than life starting…

    • Christopher Cantwell

      Well put.

    • Hal Gailey

      They may be living cells, as most every one in our bodies is, but I’m not sure they qualify as life in and of themselves. not like a bacterium or algae. I’m not so sure its a question of “life” in the ethereal sense as taken from the quote but an individual existence. a discrete being.

      Either way I don’t have a horse in the debate over sperm and ova.

      Just my two pennies, no real purpose other than to try to flesh out the info flow.

  • Nathan Scott

    Having sex, which we are biologically programmed to derive immense pleasure from, and ultimately having a baby, whether by accident or intentional, is like making pipe bombs…. Right.

    Also, non moral agents (fetuses who obviously lack the ability to think) have rights of moral agents, but dolphins (who posses languages, families, and social systems very close to proto-man) are not subject to these same protections…

    • Peter Hauer

      The pipe bomb analogy is legitimate, Regardless of whether or not both “deisres” (the desire for sex or for mass murder) is considered more “natural.” In both cases, a person commits an act with serious potential consequences. To later abandon the resulting bomb (or the resulting baby) is highly IRRESPONSIBLE. This is especially true today, with condoms widely available.

      • Manley Caughell

        Condoms suck. Go fuck yourself.

  • Peter Hauer

    Rothbard is rather ignorant. He said (among other absurdities) “…a mere promise is not an enforceable contract?” Oh Really? Under the legal theory of Promissory Estoppel many “mere promises” have been enforced. Furthermore, how can this fool suddenly ignore the most fundamental principle of doctrinaire libertarianism? To wit: It is wrong to initiate violence against another human being. Abortion (whether pre birth or post birth) certainly falls under that concept. Apparently Rothbard thinks that only adults who can articulate libertarian ideas are entitled to any libertarian rights. Obviously education is not indicator of wisdom.

    • Christopher Cantwell

      I think Rothbard acknowledges that it is impermissible to agress against the infant, he just thinks that leaving it to die in the snow doesn’t count as an aggression due to the failure to connect the dots of responsibility.

      • Peter Hauer

        You are correct. My critique of Rothbard left out that distinction. But as you said, killing someone quickly is actually far more humane than letting the poor baby starve to death slowly. Rothbard really is a fool.

        • Hal Gailey

          once again he was speaking SOLELY on the hypothetical side of legality, which is a massive construct. He himself says this in no way is to moralize or justify it outside of the hypothetical LEGAL questions of a “libertarian” society, which just so happens to maintain pre or non libertarian definitions and precedents. I believe he mentions on multiple occasions these legal acrobatics fly in the face of morality on several occasions. The great injustice is that legality rarely has anything to do with morality.

  • Michael Shanklin

    The article summed up:

    “Libertarianism incentivizes responsibility.”

  • illuminarch

    Cantwell calls himself an “asshole”, but by this article he identifies himself as far less of an asshole than 50% of the libertarians I’ve encountered.

    Too many libertarians have a blindspot to this most pervasive form of violent aggression, the state sanctioned, industrialized murder of 1-2 million of America’s most helpless every year.

    Some years ago, I argued with Dr. Block about his evictionism theory and got him to admit that, just as a reckless driver who puts a pedestrian on life support has responsibility for his care, so to do the parents of a child, and that, in any event, “eviction” does not begin to characterize what abortion actually is. Let’s talk about “eviction” when we have artificial wombs and inter-uterine transplant capability – but even then, let’s admit that, in the absence of a place to evict the gestating child to, the biological parents still hold responsibility for their act.

    @michaelshanklin:disqus: Yes, the sperm and ova are alive and thus conception is not the creation of new life ex nihilo, it is the beginning of a new and distinct organism. The haploid cells are mere constituents of the parent’s body, the zygote is not.

    • Hal Gailey

      I think Anarchists and Libertarians should just take the plunge and adopt the 69 as the official stance on sexual health

      69: Mutual, reciprocal, consensual, contraceptive.

      Tongue in cheek, but valid I think…

  • TonyWestover

    This “evictionism” principle is the most moronic thing I’ve ever heard. What “libertarian” said this:

    “The unborn fetus is trespassing into the womb of the woman.”

    Um, no it fucking isn’t, asshole. The woman *put* the fetus there by consenting to a dicking. This statement is as stupid as saying that someone can go grab anybody off the street, throw them into their house, and call them a trespasser.

    This argument that technology can absolve a woman of her responsibility is absurd. People are responsible for their choices, no matter how much they regret those choices.

    • The non-aggression principle against a baby would hold whether or not the sex was consensual.

      • AnarchyPrime

        Suppose you wake up one day to find that, without your permission, you have been surgically attached to a child whose kidneys have just failed. Your kidneys are filtering their blood. There are no machines available to filter that child’s blood, you’re the only person around who is a close enough match for this to work, and if they are disconnected from you, the child will die. Do you have a right to disconnect that child from your body?

        • Hal Gailey

          you may (did the child have a say?), or you could say you have the right to restitution from those who did this to you. They (not the child) aggressed against you. And the onus is on them to provide restitution or attempt to entice your consent. I’d like to think any place where they could meld two peoples’ blood systems to share kidneys would have the ability to perform dialysis… I mean some chinese dude did make such a machine on his own in his house…

        • Yes I would have that right. Whether I would do it or not is a different question – depends on the exact circumstances.

          But that has nothing to do with what I was referring to. I have a problem with those who make an exception with abortion in the case of rape or incest. How the baby was started has no bearing on the morality of what you do from there.

      • TonyWestover

        No, it wouldn’t. If a woman is raped, she’s certainly not obligated to keep the baby. Her natural rights were violated.

        If you take consent out of the equation, then we’re all murderers because we don’t donate our organs to people who need them to live. So forcing a woman to keep a baby she conceived from rape would be tantamount to the government harvesting organs from healthy people to give to sick people.

        • I think you misunderstand my position. If (and it’s *not* my position) you believe that protected human life begins at the instant of conception and therefore no abortion is legal, some people try to sweeten it and say except in cases of rape or incest.

          I won’t allow that hypocrisy. If abortion is about the rights of the fetus being supreme from the start, then you can’t make any exceptions since the fetus itself isn’t responsible for how it got started.

          • TonyWestover

            No, I understood your point. You’re making a false argument that someone can be made responsible for someone else’s life without their consent, which is ridiculous. It’s a position that completely ignores natural rights, personal responsibility, and nonaggression.

            “If abortion is about the rights of the fetus being supreme from the start”

            Abortion is about murder. Again, you’re making a false argument. No one has “more” rights than another.

          • You’re still not reading what I wrote. What I am saying is that the position (which is NOT mine) that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape or incest is morally inconsistent.

          • TonyWestover

            I never said it was your position, I said it was your point. You brought it up.

            And I never said abortion should be “legal” in the case of incest. I never said it should be “legal” for rape either — “legal” only implies whether or not government thinks its okay.

            I’m making a moral case and your fallacious point is that you suspend consensual activity for this *single* case, which holds no water whatsoever. Rape by definition is nonconsensual, ergo someone should not be held accountable for the results of that. If anything, the rapist is accountable for the resulting abortion since they’re already responsible for the rape itself.

          • kaspa84

            I’ve made this point (on rapist responsability for the abortion) elsewhere, and agree 100%.

          • kaspa84

            Sorry, but were the one not reading properly. Of ourse Tony understood (and refuted) your shoddy reasoning.

          • Initial reasoning from the anti-abortion position: They say that abortion is murder from the instant of conception and the doctor is the murderer. Some people try to take that and then make exceptions for the case of incest or rape. If the act of performing an abortion is an act of murder, then it doesn’t matter how the pregnancy began. By the original reasoning, the same person (the doctor) is doing the same crime (murder). They can’t have it both ways. You cannot hold both of those positions at the same time.

            They say if A, then B as a defining proposition. If a person performs an abortion, then he is a murderer. An event C happens. A rape or incest has occured. That doesn’t change the proposition if A, then B. There is nothing about C in the definition. How the pregnancy was initiated changes nothing about whether or not a person is committing a murder when he performs an abortion.

            The formal fallacy is the argumentum ad populum; An argument aimed to sway popular support by appealing to sentimental weakness rather than facts and reasons. They are trying to find a way to get more people to support outlawing abortions by making up an emotional loophole for worst case scenarios.

            BTW: Did you notice I said THEY? Personally, I am pro-choice. This whole thing is going after one of the common anti-abortion crowd’s attempts to make outlawing all other abortions more palatable.

          • Heavenly BluE

            Sure you can consistently have both positions at the same time.

            TonyWestover’s initial position was “‘The unborn fetus is trespassing into the womb of the woman.’

            Um, no it fucking isn’t, asshole. The woman *put* the fetus there by consenting to a dicking.”

            If the woman did not consent, then the baby is trespassing in her womb and can be evicted.

          • Tony Thompson

            The baby is not trespassing in either instance. While I find it morally repugnant when some Libertarians apply legal concepts such as contract theory or property theory to issues that have absolutely nothing to do with those legal concepts (legal concepts do not apply to every aspect of life), the fact is if your going to use the property theory of eviction, the child was not the one the trespassed, the rapists did. The child is simply a product of the trespass combined with the egg of the mother. That child is not completely of the rapist, it is also of the women that was assaulted. The child did not place it’s self there, the rapists and the women, through the natural processes of her body, even though she did not do so consciously or willingly, placed the child there without its consent or permission. The Child did not ask to be conceived nor did it commit any overt act that lead to it trespassing. Trespassing is a crime of intent, which the child does not have since it has not acted.

          • Ann Morgan

            **Trespassing is a crime of intent**

            No, it isn’t. If someone throws you into my yard, and I don’t want you there, you are trespassing. If I let you into my yard, then get tired of you there, and tell you to leave, if you don’t leave, you are now trespassing.

          • Josh N Sondra

            If I were on the ocean and sawa drowning man or found a stowaway on my boat, I would not have sufficient justification to let either of them die absent an imminent threat to the lives of me & mine. Babies, it should go without saying, deserve an even higher standard of treatment.

            I don’t think I am at or near the edge of reason when I say that capable adults have a responsibility to protect a baby in an instance where no one else is able to do so, for the minimum time and effort to save a life.

          • TonyWestover

            Two issues here:

            a.) You chose to go to sea. A woman doesn’t choose to be raped, by the very nature of rape.
            b.) A drowning man or a stowaway isn’t entitled to safety at your burden. Yeah, you probably should, but you don’t have to.

            Plus I think it goes without saying that carrying a baby to term and letting someone stay on your boat are hardly similar.

          • Ann Morgan

            If the drowning man or stowaway was going to rip a large hole in you after a certain period of time, you would be justified in throwing them off your boat.

          • Ann Morgan

            **Abortion is about murder.**

            You are trivializing the real murders of thinking, feeling people, in order to create sobs for mindless cells.

            **No one has “more” rights than another.**

            Good. Nobody else has a right to use someone else’s body and organs without their explicit, ongoing consent. So we agree the fetus has no such right either, correct?

      • Ann Morgan

        Nope. You are trying to pretend that a fetus has a positive right to someone else’s body, then pretend that the non-agression principle is violated by taking the other person’s body away from it. That’s like pretending that a theif has a right to the car he just stole, and you are violating the NAP by taking the car back from the theif.

        • You’re not reading what I said in context.

          I said that *if* someone believes that life begins at conception, then they can’t make exceptions for pregnancy as a result of rape or incest. A child cannot be held responsible for the actions of either of the parents. If all abortion is murder, as they say, then abortion in the case of rape or incest is no less murder than any other.

          My response when I hear or read this argument is to ask “So you think that one person committing a crime is justification for murdering another?”

          This is an argument *against* the many anti-abortion proponents who make those exceptions. It’s proof that they do not *actually* believe what they say they believe and are therefore blatant moral hypocrites. If they want to hold their beliefs as a moral absolute, then they have to accept *all* the consequences thereof, no matter how bad.

          The actual question about abortion is when does *legally protected human life* begin. I can’t call a collection of undifferentiated cells a human life. Yet I also can’t see any difference between a baby five minutes before birth to one five minutes afterwards.

          We have a de facto definition for the end of human life. It’s the absence of brain activity. The core may still function. The heart may still beat and the lungs may still breathe, but the actual person is dead. I’m comfortable with using the same standard for the beginning of human life. That happens around 20 to 22 weeks of gestation. Past that, triage (when both lives can’t be saved and the doctor has to pick one, usually the one most likely to be saveable) decisions are still valid. At some point, technologically, we’ll have artificial wombs and even that problem goes away, but for today we can only work with what’s available today.

    • Ann Morgan

      And I’m sure you can show a video of a woman grabbing a baby, yanking out it’s functional organs, and ‘putting’ it into her uterus, right?

  • Hal Gailey

    I appreciate your input on this, and agree with a lot of your sentiment, especially on the touchy nature of the subject in general.

    I would like to say that you kind of unfairly critique by saying there is no mention of the moral side of the argument when he explicitly says this is ONLY a legal extrapolation and makes no call on the moral side of the issue. Basically saying that while a legal and philosophical case can be made for such and such an argument using a small portion of certain libertarian ideology it in no way translates to being a morally justified stance.

    On to the general question of life in utero, human rights cannot be graduated, subjective, or selective. They do not change with the status of the individual, the relationship between two individuals, or with collective acceptance. A person is a person and has the right to life. Abortion, except where it is necessary to save a life, is untenable in the libertarian codex. No matter what you want to call it or legally classify it, it is ending the life of an innocent human individual. I have no more right to kill a stranger than I do a child, whether or not I know someone, am related to them, or they have yet to be birthed, they are all individuals with the same rights. A person isn’t a person till birth? why not till majority? or adolescence? or teething? or first poopy? They are an individual as soon as they are unique to their forebears.

    As for parenthood, while legally there is no justifiable impetus for forcing a parent to feed their child in a voluntary society there would also be no constraint keeping someone from taking stewardship of said child away or a child emancipating themselves from a household, no barriers to freely giving, selling, or adopting away a child, and no reason the “market” couldn’t offer incentives, options, birth control, orphan/foster/adoptive service, or charitable protective service to keep things sane. All could be voluntary and in a voluntary society the only thing you can do is work to protect life and liberty.

    A parent has no legal obligation but also has no legal ownership, they have at best an assumed and agreed stewardship that only exists so long as they are not aggressing against those whom they have stewardship over. Starving an individual you have stewardship over is aggressing. If I have someone involuntarily imprisoned I have the duty and obligation to provide care and sustenance. A child in the system in question: in flux between our modern system and a truly voluntary system, we must see any who cannot or are not allowed to exercise their rights as individuals in a voluntary manner be protected from those who would use that status to do harm to them.

    • AnarchyPrime

      “A person is a person and has the right to life”


      • Hal Gailey

        because any and all rights have to be reciprocal. regardless of the fact every single thing we discuss is a human construct and contrivance. Nature imparts no rights or privileges. But we can logically extrapolate, simply from nature, the primacy of life, self-preservation, and determination.

        • Manley Caughell

          So I have right to life at expense to you?

          • Hal Gailey

            no, by definition, reciprocity means that any right you have all other people have equally, you’re rights end where the rights of another begin. You cannot infringe the rights of another except in response to aggression. Your right to property does not trump my right to property, it is not yours if it is already mine. Just as I cannot just choose to kill you, but in defense of my own life or property I may.

          • Manley Caughell

            So then the Mother’s right to property (herself) completely trumps all, especially your attempt to tell her what she can and can’t do with her body and what she has to have in her body.
            No more tyrants in anarchy, please. Go fist yourself with the GOP.

          • Hal Gailey

            The fetus is not aggressing, the use of deadly force in the face of non-aggression is the epitome of malevolent aggression.

          • Hal Gailey

            You have the right to exercise your liberties to the maximum extent you wish until you reach the border of someone else’s rights. Crossing that line is aggression. If I so choose I could shoulder some expense to support you in your right to life.

            A fetus has not aggressed, it is an innocent third party. The aggressors or responsible parties are those whose actions led to its creation. THAT is where the onus of responsibility lies, the fetus has no blood on its hands.

        • AnarchyPrime

          A fetus cannot reciprocate. Neither can an infant. They can’t even comprehend it.

          A child is a drain on the mother (or parents). It is a liability to both her self-preservation and self-determination.

          • Hal Gailey

            Reciprocity is not an action it is the STATUS of the right and its scope.

            The fetus has as much right to life as anyone, and has aggressed against no one. Rights cannot be graduated or selective. A human has all its rights at every point and state of its existence. Anyone’s right to life or property should be discounted due to age? race? gender? status? Men can be killed by anyone at any time but men also solely have the right to own property? this system would smack us in the face.

            If a child is a threat to life it is justified to save the life of the mother, if not the voluntary system would provide outlets of prevention, support, or divestment to those who wish it on a voluntary basis. In a voluntary society who is to say there must be someone willing to provide abortion? In a voluntary system who is to say in a certain region anyone who doesn’t make use of freely available prevention is ostracized if pregnancy happens and the baby is not allowed to come to term? who are you to dictate what a voluntary society has to provide or support? I just say that a fetus is as entitled to the right to life as a person at any stage of life.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “Reciprocity is not an action it is the STATUS of the right”

            Does that include a human that is brain-dead or afflicted with anacephaly? The heart pumps bloods, the lungs process air… but there is no cognition. No thought. No awareness. Or suppose, through medical technology, a body could be kept alive without a head at all (such technology is probably inevitable). Does such a human also have rights? If the ability to reciprocate is not required, then a headless body should have full rights.

            Do you think animals have rights? Why or why not?

            “Rights cannot be graduated or selective.”

            “If a child is a threat to life it is justified to save the life of the mother”

            Does your first claim not rule-out your second claim – that of self-defense or punishment against threats and aggressors?
            If you mortally wound someone attacking you, you would be violating their right to life. If rights are not selective, then how can you say someone has the right to life except when they are a threat to someone else?

          • Hal Gailey

            because your right to life and to defend that life is equal to another’s. NAP is about initiation, not pacifism. Your right to life does not trump mine, but if you aggress against me I am justified in defending myself, even up to using deadly force if the aggression threatens my life.

            As for brain death or no consciousness I could net give you and hard and fast rule on their exercise of rights. I personally don’t believe technology suddenly changes rights or responsibilities. We had no machines to keep someone who was brain dead alive for millenia. Were we murdering the brain dead before? Is it murder NOW that we have machines to prolong their biological functions? Are we obligated to provide life support with no expectation of recovery? I would say that if someone has the resources to put towards keeping someone on life support they are justified in trying, but we have no obligation to expend resources on such. In a voluntary society I could not pull your plug if you had paid for life support, but I could not be forced to provide life support without compensation. Although in a truly free market and voluntary society there may well be organizations or groups who would work to keep such people alive, maybe with the expectation of the people on life support being used to research treatments to bring such people back, or who knows what.

            You are misconstruing reciprocity with presupposition. Who is making the choice to hook a headless body to a machine? And who is doing so without the allowance of payment or consent? Would someone else be aggressing on behalf of the patient in order to force someone to treat him? Or would it only happen if a medical facility or provider were to opt to do so voluntarily? TO be fair that is something someone could have included in insurance coverage. And even then insurance would probably require some expectation of recovery or eventual cap to the amount spent to support you in that state.

            Your rights, and exercise thereof, do not trump voluntary interaction (non-aggression) as I said before, your rights only extend to the boundaries of another’s rights. If you get shot on the street it is not MY responsibility to save or heal you. It is your aggressors responsibility to provide restitution, assuming you were innocent in the exchange, and any outside interaction must be voluntary. I believe there WOULD be voluntary attempts to rescue you, and the expectation would be understandable, but to require or compel people to make such attempts?

            In the case of a fetus, either it was the product of a voluntary interaction, in which case both parties are equally responsible for the after effects, or it was the product of a non-consensual interaction in which case the aggressor is responsible for restitution. Either way the fetus is an innocent in the exchange. And it behooves those involved, if the fetus is unwanted after birth, to find it a new steward.

            As was mentioned at many points in the article and the comments, legality and morality are two very different things and often meet at different places, if at all. And most of this debate would be taken care of simply by the status of the system when we get to that libertarian/voluntaryist ideal. Who is to say what systems or procedures will be available or provided?

          • AnarchyPrime

            “because your right to life and to defend that life is equal to another’s. NAP is about initiation, not pacifism”

            But _why_? Why is there a right to defend if defense involves injury to the other person? To assert a right to injure someone else (even in defense) is to assert a degree of ownership over their body. You’re transforming property that isn’t apparently yours, and you’re doing so against the will of that other person.

            “Who is making the choice to hook a headless body to a machine?”

            Suppose you have a brain-dead human being kept alive only by life support technology. There is no sign of thought, no cognition, no response to stimulus, no chance for recovery. This person is/was someone dear to you, and you are the one keeping that human on life support. I walk into the room while you are away, and unplug the machines, and that human dies. Have I committed murder, or just destruction of your property?

            “or it was the product of a non-consensual interaction in which case the aggressor is responsible for restitution. Either way the fetus is an innocent in the exchange.”

            What if the rapist cannot be found, or is dies shortly after his vicious act, and no one else wishes to adopt the child (there’s a surplus of unwanted babies or something)? Can the mother abandon the child then, or must she be a slave to the child for many years until it is old enough to care for itself? If so, couldn’t an unwanted child be considered a device a rapist uses for torture, in the way that cages and restraints can be used as devices for torture?

          • Hal Gailey

            To imply the lack of the right to defend yourself and your property you are saying there is no ownership at all. Negating all the rights in the first place. Pacifism is the implicit support of evil by refusing to confront evil. Not being able to exert and exercise your ownership of your property is to negate the existence of that ownership. If I have no right to defend my life I have no RIGHT to life.

            If I am paying to keep this person alive, under the assumption I am doing so with the previous consent or in some sort of justified way, you would have aggressed against me and my property, but the loss of life is an aggression against the person who was once that body. Now I, having been paying for the life support with no other impetus than my desire to attempt to keep that person alive through the expenditure of my property, would not be committing murder by withdrawing my support. Although, unless it was written out or known to be agreed upon beforehand, someone else could come and claim stewardship and turn the machines back on under their own onus.

            The mother could definitely abandon the child, but if there are entities or organizations available it behooves her to make use of them, even before birth, to take stewardship. THere is no legal impetus to force someone to care for a child after birth, but there very much is a moral one. But as has been said many times over, this presupposes a vacuum. Who is to say that in the society in question everyone within this community is signatory to a contract dictating certain expectations on behavior for continued acceptance within the community, including making use of protection, finding a foster or adoptive outlet in the case of unwanted pregnancy, or keeping and properly raising the child until such is found after birth? The contract would have been entered into voluntarily, the market and system surrounding the person would have worked to find a voluntary way to assuage our very debate. And in such a case would we have anything to discuss? Two random people in the wilderness do not matter to us because we cannot decide or control their action even in the hypothetical, they can and will do what they want without fear of prosecution, all that leaves us with is the moral dilemma, which we can and should prepare for beforehand rather than leave a gaping hole in whatever system we enact in a voluntary society.

            Heck such things could be included in insurance contracts, or habitation, or community governance. All voluntary, and all binding in the situations we describe.

          • Ann Morgan

            ** or it was the product of a non-consensual interaction in which case the aggressor is responsible for restitution**

            That’s an interesting thought. However, the problem here is, you want to take away my right to my own body, which I will NEVER get back in the same condition, for the sake of the little fetus.

            Full restitution in this case would mean – I now am given ownership of the rapist’s body, in the same complete sense that I own a radio. Such that if I want to vivisect him, or feed him to an anaconda, or work him to death in a uranium mine, there will be no sobs or pleas about this from ANYONE, any more than if I decided to dismantle my old radio.

            Are you good with that? Or do you just want sobby partial ‘restitution’?

          • Hal Gailey

            Restitution isn’t a lottery ticket, it is defined by damages and reparation. Never getting back to the same condition is a weak argument. A cheeseburger or a punch to the face changes your body in a way you can never undo. The progress of time and finite actions are something we all have to deal with. Restitution would revolve around remediation or support for any actual damage, and the incidental costs incumbent. You cannot fall into the emotionally rewarding trap of FURTHER demonizing rape simply because it involves sex.

            You yourself, for that argument to hold water, would have to hold that any such assault on your person entitles you to full ownership of your assailant’s body. Does a punch to the face or crippling injury entitle you to full ownership of their life and body? Or does it entitle you to restitution to support you through your actual damages? Somebody gets mad at you and hits you in the knee with a baseball bat and you are no longer able to walk they owe you for that damage. Does that entitle you to vivisect them? Or does it entitle you to support for that damage and resources to attempt to remedy it? Non-Consensual sex is assault, same as any other assault, the fetus is a victim too.

          • Ann Morgan

            **You yourself, for that argument to hold water, would have to hold that any such assault on your person entitles you to full ownership of your assailant’s body**

            But YOU are claiming that the fetus must have ownership of MY body, such that I am not ALLOWED to stop it’s ongoing damage of my body.

            I don’t play games. Either I own my body or I don’t. If I own it, I have a right to remove the fetus. If I don’t own my body, then not owning my body is the damages, and being given ownership of the rapists body is the restitution.

            But it’s pretty much as I figured. In your universe, rapists rank above women, who are nothing but incubators for the fetus.

          • Hal Gailey

            No I merely say that aggressing against the fetus is wrong. It has not aggressed against you. Eviction and abandonment, a la the original works referenced, are still available options. I don’t think you understand ownership in the context of self-ownership and property rights. The fetus makes no claim, it does not aggress. If you want to blame something other than the rapist blame the universe and biology. If the fetus is justifiably damaging your body it can be removed, to protect your life. But, you have to live with the consequences if your claim of damages by the fetus are not shared by your community and you are ostracized for the act. If you don’t own your body you can have no claim on another’s as you have no way to lay claim or exercise a claim. Your self-ownership is intrinsic and inalienable. It is the natural state. It can be aggressed against, but not surrendered or dismissed. The rapist has aggressed and owes restitution. The fetus has not and as such is presumed not to be aggressed against. Whether or not a child was the result the rapist still owes full restitution. What that restitution may avail itself as I do not know. That would be between the victim, their aggressor, and if needed an arbitrator.

            You can remove it, you cannot kill it. If you remove it it needs to be done in a way that does not harm it, then it can be either taken up by another or not. And while I think it morally wrong, I still do not agree with coercive state enforcement of this. I would prefer to see it ostracized, disincentivized, and prevented to the best of our ability.

            Presume of my intentions what you will. I know the respect I have for all people and their rights.

            Deprecated Text:
            The rapist has aggressed against your self-ownership but has no valid claim OF ownership. Your presumption of reciprocity then ALSO allows for that rapist to simply kill you since he has “ownership” of your body. HE staked his claim and its now a mexican standoff between you two?

          • Ann Morgan

            **No I merely say that aggressing against the fetus is wrong. It has not aggressed against you.**

            Sorry, but yes, it HAS aggressed.

            **The fetus makes no claim, it does not aggress.**

            It is not necessary to ‘make a claim’ to aggress. A cancer does not ‘make a claim’ either. It is still aggressing.

            ** If the fetus is justifiably damaging your body it can be removed, to protect your life.**

            Something that is intruding in your body does not have to be lethal for you to have it removed.

            **If you don’t own your body you can have no claim on another’s as you have no way to lay claim or exercise a claim. Your self-ownership is intrinsic and inalienable. It is the natural state.**

            Great. Then we agree that I own my own body, and the fetus has no right to it.

            **The rapist has aggressed and owes restitution. The fetus has not and as such is presumed not to be aggressed against. **

            Sorry, you are trying to conflate Mens Rea with Actus Rea. Both the rapist and the fetus are guilty of an Actus Rea. The rapist is additionally guilty of a Mens Rea, while the fetus is not. That is why the rapist would be put on trial. The fetus would NOT be put on trial, as it is not guilty of a Mens Rea. However, that fact does not give it special rights to continue it’s Actus Rea.

            **. What that restitution may avail itself as I do not know. **

            You mean, you want to evade the subject, you want to give the fetus ownership of MY body, but you don’t want to give ME ownership of the rapist’s body, because you have sad feelies.

            **Your presumption of reciprocity then ALSO allows for that rapist to simply kill you since he has “ownership” of your body. **

            You’re evading here. In your scenario, you are giving the FETUS ownership of my body. Proper compensation would be to give ME ownership of another body. Either the fetus, in which case I would be justified in aborting it, OR the rapist. Or you can offer YOURSELF. Your choice. But I am entitled to the ownership of at least ONE body. If you give the ownership of MY body to the fetus, then you pick whose body I get to own instead. I’m tired of your sobby little evasions. Don’t like it, tell rapists to keep it in their pants.

            But you have sad feelies about rapists, which is why you are evading. In your universe, fetuses are first, rapists are second, and women are just walking incubators.

          • Ann Morgan

            **The fetus has as much right to life as anyone, and has aggressed against no one.**

            The problem here, is that you fail to understand what is meant by a ‘right to life’. It is negative in nature. It means – nobody has the right to damage or remove YOUR organs, that are sustaining your life.

            If, for some reason, YOUR organs are incapable of sustaining life, too bad, so sad, it does not create a positive right to someone else’s organs without their consent. Not for 9 short months. Not for 9 short minutes. The medical ‘neediness’ of one person does not create a right to violate the rights of another person. Not even for their ‘very life’.

          • Hal Gailey

            If you act against the fetus you are aggressing, the fetus has DONE nothing. The fetus has not aggressed, electing to act against it IS aggression. Other actors initiated the process, not the fetus.

            Eviction or abandonment are valid options, if they are possible.

  • It seems to me that the more germane question is when does legally protected human life begin. To my mind, a baby 5 minutes before delivery is the same as one 5 minutes after. On the other hand, I do have trouble with the notion that human life begins at that instant that the two cells combine.

    That, to me, would be saying that any viable cell with a human genome inside is a legally protected life. Science is almost, if not already, at the point where they can reliably revert differentiated cells to stem cells, i.e. pluripotent cells that, given the proper environment, would become an entire human being.

    The position I have found for myself is to use the same standards for the beginning of life as we do for its end. At the end, that is the point at which the higher brain functions end, even if the heart is still pumping and the lungs still breathing. This level of brain function starts at about 20 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

    The one position I don’t have any respect for is when someone claims an exemption in the case of rape or incest. As you rightly point out, the criminal is the only one that can be held responsible for their act, not an innocent result.

  • Jaime

    In effect, you make a good case to think about the acts from what may be considered a civil “negligence” standard as opposed to a criminal law theory standard. Something to the effect of gross negligence or recklessness would be considered where a person having consensual sex brings a child to birth then leaves it to die.

    It is something that will never have a perfect answer in an imperfect understanding about the nature of life and existence. However, working toward a scientific understanding of life’s beginning and an ethical standard on removing injustices for those who cannot defend themselves is necessary if we are to grow our ethical evolution.

  • RobertRoddis

    I think it is best to just think of these types of problems as problems simply not covered by the NAP. Further, I think the solution to the problems not addressed by the NAP is to suggest that they would be covered by the bylaws of voluntary communities. Just as it would be possible to live in a community that banned non-Christians and engaged in drug testing every three hours (however unlikely that might be in practice), it is quite possible and likely that most communities would have harsh contractual sanctions for abandonment of children and others regarding abortion. I also think that there would be concerted ostracism against persons not already tied into such a contractual arrangement, especially one with a clause forbidding child abandonment. Finally, I think we need to be more clear with newbies that all of these alleged knotty problems are not that difficult to solve when the NAP is meticulously enforced.

  • AnarchyPrime

    It doesn’t matter when life begins. It matters when rights begin, and what those rights are. Why do you think babies have rights?

  • Zach

    Wonderful article, Chris.

    I have had the same thoughts and had yet to put pen to paper (in private discourse) about this topic, now my need is less urgent. You are absolutely correct on this, and I am so glad your words are how I feel.

    I am not sure if Block or Rothbard have kids, but I cannot imagine them writing about this in the way that they have if they did.

  • Peter Hauer

    Bravo Christopher!

  • Ombibulous

    I think I understand your position regarding consensual sex, the creation of a life, and the moral and legal obligation to that life. The bomb-making analogy is good. I hadn’t thought of it like that.

    Would your concept apply in the case of willfully assuming care for a person who would otherwise die without it? If I take a mentally ill person who is unable to comprehend contracts, agreements, etc into my house and feed them for a month, would I be ethically bound to continue that care knowing that evicting them from my house would likely lead to their death?

  • Manley Caughell

    Sorry, but on this one I agree with Rothbard. Completely.There is too much appeal to emotion in this, as there always is when people talk about children, babies, fetuses, embryos, all of it. I really hope that, in a free society, there will not be people attempting to act violently against abortions. You make a very poor argument of magic contracts, just because you know sex can lead to pregnancy does not bind you to being forced to carry through a pregnancy that you do not want in your own, privately owned being.
    At least you recognize that you can’t do anything about it, but I really wish the emotional reactionists would just let it be. It is not bad, it is not wrong. It is not any more wrong than killing anyone or anything else that has violated you. The rights to property and the right to defend that property, one’s self included, does not change “because babies!”

    • illuminarch

      Just because you know running over a pedestrian does not bind you to pay for his medical care until he is able to take care of himself again. Amirite?

      It’s nauseating to watch “libertarians” twist themselves into pretzels, ready to abandon responsibility, reciprocity, and common decency to try to justify killing their own children. Especially stupid is talking about being “violated” by someone you put in your own body.

      Libertarianism as philosophical autism strikes again.

      • Manley Caughell

        You’re just wrong. You’re a constitution loving, GOP fuck. Again, go fist yourself, you’re a cunt, and you’re wrong. Cunt.

        • illuminarch

          OK Manley. Now go get your fucking shinebox.

          Hey, I hear some of the folks over at C4SS are redefining the NAP. I’m sure they’ll want to consider your interpretation: “I agree to only initiate force against those who can’t defend themselves.”

    • state hater

      I agree. Something lacking a brain cannot properly be called a person, in my opinion. Terminating the life of something that does not have a brain (or that has a rudimentary brain) is not unethical. Of course, some will say that this group of cells will become a person, but that still begs the question of who is being wronged when you kill something that *would have* become a person. How can you wrong an entity that has yet to come into existence?

      • Manley Caughell

        And at one point is something that would become a person considered to be wrong to terminate? Is it wrong to allow an egg to go unfertilized? Each reproductive cell is a potential could be person.

        • illuminarch

          That you even ask such a question demonstrates your profound ignorance of the topic. The fertilized egg is a new and distinct organism, the haploid cells are not. If you kept a haploid cell alive for ten million years it will never develop into a new organism.

          • AnarchyPrime

            The zygote will never develop into a fully grown, rational human being unless a long series of conditions and actions occur. The same is true of a haploid cell. Being a new and distinct organism means nothing. Plants are capable of this as well.

  • AnarchyPrime

    The mistake Rothbard and Block make is that they assume a fetus or infant has rights.
    Rights are rules for conflict resolution without resorting to violence. To implement them, both parties to a conflict must be capable of comprehending them. This requires sapience. It requires moral agency. This is beyond the capabilities of a fetus or infant (non-human animals, too, except maybe great apes, and certain species of cetaceans and parrots). Foeticide and infanticide are not violations of the NAP.
    At some point, a very young child will mature to the point where they might have this capacity. At that point, we should err on the side of caution.

    • illuminarch

      The only thing I can say for this repulsive argument is that it is consistent: there’s no argument for abortion that can’t also be applied to infanticide, and you, at least, realize it.

      • AnarchyPrime

        Why do you find the argument “repulsive?” Because feels?

        • illuminarch

          Just as there is a difference between rationality (in the sense of rejecting sentimentality) and sociopathy, so too I feel no shame in having empathy and compassion for babies, nor could I ever feel unjustified or irrational in accepting their inherent worth and dignity.

          Your rush to adhere to a foolish consistency has led you to sacrifice your humanity. You’re too arrogant even to consider that your assessment of their “sapience” may be incorrect, or the plain fact that they will, in time, achieve your acknowledged level of “sapience”, and so err on the side of caution. I can just imagine how rigorously you apply your simple-minded formula to the sleeping or the incapacitated. What a champion of clear, rational thinking you are!

          • Manley Caughell

            OMG cause babies!
            Justification for whatever I want! Cause babies!

          • illuminarch

            Because killing innocent, helpless human beings is evil — even when they’re babies.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “accepting their inherent worth and dignity.”

            Meaningless rhetoric.

            “has led you to sacrifice your humanity”

            No, it’s still there. I checked just a few minutes ago.

            “You’re too arrogant even to consider that your assessment of their “sapience” may be incorrect”

            Which is irrelevant unless you accept that sapience is required for having rights. And if you accept that, then it is simply a matter of finding the correct point at which sapience is probable (an embryo, for instance, will certainly not be sapient). Being factually wrong in a specific case does not invalidate a rule. There is still nothing logical about rights based on anything other than sapience.

            “the sleeping or the incapacitated.”

            A sleeping adult still possesses the capacity for sapience. An embryo does not. A fetus does not. A newborn does not.
            But, let’s grant that a sleeping person does not have rights until they awake. This would only mean that there is little about rights that is pragmatic. Abortion and infanticide would still not be unethical.

            “What a champion of clear, rational thinking you are!”

            Thank you! I’m just happy I can help others discover the truth, however uncomfortable it may at first make them.

          • Hal Gailey

            Why do rights require sapience?

            Our construct for rights is for our interaction with ourselves. Our rights don’t extend to other creatures, sapient or not, unless our rights are reciprocated by them. Sapience or not, if any other form of life suddenly appeared and started killing us we would fight back. Sapience doesn’t preclude xenocide.

            People have rights because a person holds and exercises those rights. If I have and hold to rights, I must therefore reciprocate those rights to my fellow man or they are nothing. Anyone who does not reciprocate these rights TO ME, does so by aggressing against me, showing me he does not hold my rights, thereby also showing he forfeits the same. Consenting, by his use of force against me, to me using force against him. My holding to those rights is not contradicted by my use of force as it was done within the bounds of those rights.

            Sapience is no greater source of “rights” than any other criteria. Humanity needs to hold rights for itself, and those rights would extend to any individual, human or not, who reciprocates those rights.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “Why do rights require sapience?”

            Rights are rules for conduct. To know what the rules are, to be able to follow rules, to be able to know when others are or are not following them, requires being able to comprehend them. If you cannot comprehend them, you cannot use them for resolving conflict.

            “Our rights don’t extend to other creatures, sapient or not, unless our rights are reciprocated by them….
            “Anyone who does not reciprocate these rights TO ME, does so by
            aggressing against me, showing me he does not hold my rights, thereby
            also showing he forfeits the same.”

            Earlier you said the reciprocation of rights was not about action. Now you’re saying it is.

            “Consenting, by his use of force against me, to me using force against him”

            That’s not consent. A person can attack you without consenting to you attacking them. Consent requires agreement.

            – A: “You are attacking me! Therefore, you consent to me attacking you.”
            – B: “No, I disagree. I do not want you to attack me.”

            “My holding to those rights is not contradicted by my use of force as it was done within the bounds of those rights.’

            I’m inclined to think that such a situation is outside the scope of rights. As I’ve stated before, rights are rules for conflict resolution as an alternative to violence. Rules are of no use if only one side of a conflict follows them. If the other party to a conflict knows the rules but disregards them, or is attempting to follow a different set of rules which are illogical and cannot be convinced of their error, then rights no longer apply in that conflict, until the point the conflict is resolved either by violence or by the other party choosing to abide by the correct rules. The use of violence in such a conflict would fall outside the arena of rights, so to speak. I’m still trying to decide on that. Not sure it would matter in practice, though.

            “Sapience is no greater source of “rights” than any other criteria.”

            It’s not a source. It’s a prerequisite.

          • Hal Gailey

            So rights don’t just require sapience but a certain level of sapience? If you cannot understand rights you don’t have them? You say the state of sapience is prerequisite, but then you say comprehension is necessary, you have just negated sapience, and switched to a “level of sophistication.” Rights aren’t for conflict resolution, they are for showing you where conflict exists. resolution or restitution only exist after the fact.

            Reciprocal rights is not about action, I hold the right to life so i must, for it to be a right, reciprocate it. Unlike YOU most people would not tell me to my face they have no respect for my life, I would only know my life was in danger when they aggressed against me, showing me they do not hold to those rights. You see what I’m saying. Reciprocity is required for the rights to apply both ways. Your aggressing against me is how I discern whether or not you are respecting those rights. If only a king has the “right” to life it is not a right it is a privilege. If I do not hold that right for all my fellow men as I hold it for myself I am not holding to a right, I am holding to a privilege I reserve for myself.

            A person who aggresses against me, without justification under the NAP, is, if not consenting, at least acquiescing to me retaliating or demanding restitution. If someone does not want to face those repercussion they should not aggress.

            Rights are the skeleton on which we build our structure of interaction and allowable exercise of our freedom. THey have nothing to do with the use of violence in and of themselves except in the sense where a right is being infringed upon. Violence is not the keyword any ways. its aggression. The bubble of rights do not merely cover violence, but all aggression.

            Rights tell me what I may not aggress against, and what I may protect against agression.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “So rights don’t just require sapience but a certain level of sapience?”

            If you’re sapient, you can understand rules. You can reason. You can conceive of things in the abstract, not just about the specific material instances of them. You can consciously direct your actions, rather than only react to current circumstances. If you’re not sapient, you cannot do these things, and if you cannot do these things, you cannot use rules.

            “Rights aren’t for conflict resolution, they are for showing you where conflict exists.”

            This is not correct. Consider again the case of Robinson Cruesoe. Alone on the island, he has no rights. Why would he? What would he do with them? What would a right be outside the context of social interaction? He could say, “I have the right to do X!” But what would that even mean, if there is no one present to obstruct him in the first place?
            We don’t need rights to see where conflict exists. When Friday shows up on the island, and he and Crusoe physically struggle with each other over control of the space around a coconut tree, you can observe this conflict. You don’t have to know who “has the right” to control that area. You can plainly see each one is attempting to do something that interferes with the other’s similar attempts. Rights would only tell you which of the two should give up their attempt, if they desire to avoid violence.

            “Reciprocity is required for the rights to apply both ways.”

            Leaving aside that what you wrote is basically, “reciprocity is required for rights to be reciprocal,”…
            You seem to be using reciprocity in two different ways. First, as a conscious action, and second as a synonym for universalizable.
            Under the first definition, the unborn and the very young cannot act in a way to reciprocal manner in regard to rights.
            Under the second definition, yes valid rights must be universalizable, but only among those to whom rights apply. And it’s still not evident why rights should apply to a creature that is incapable of comprehending them.

            “A person who aggresses against me, without justification under the NAP”

            Is it possible to justify aggression, or have you misworded this sentence?

            “if not consenting, at least acquiescing”

            Or they’re not even acquiescing. People are capable of doing things without reasoning over whether or not they should; without there being deliberate purpose to their doings.

            Please examine these parts of your reply. There is a lot of circularity in your language:

            “Your [act of violating my rights] is how I discern whether or not you are respecting those rights.”

            “Rights are the skeleton on which we build our structure of interaction and [rights]. [Rights] have nothing to do with the use of violence in and of themselves except in the sense where a right is being infringed upon. Violence is not the keyword [regarding rights] any ways. its [violations of rights]. The bubble of rights do not merely cover violence, but all [violations of rights].”

            “Rights tell me what I may not [do according to rights], and what I may protect against [violations of rights].”

            You are defining rights in terms of themselves. This is not logical.

          • Hal Gailey

            Rights do not cease to exist until conflict arises. Your rights dictate YOUR legitimate actions before you ever get to the point of aggressing against another. My right to property and your right to property means I do not aggress against your right to property, IF I DO we now know conflict exists because I have infringed on that right. Without that right in the vacuum there IS NO right to conflict over. you have no claim to that property. There is no conflict. We are just fighting.

            I am using reciprocity to illustrate the “universal” human right applying equally to those who hold it. By holding it you abide by it, if you do not abide by the right to life, by aggressing against someone there is no reciprocity between the two, which means the aggressor is denying that right to life. Which also denies him the protection of that right even to those who hold it.

            If you only equate violence with aggression your take is valid. but aggression is not just violence, it can be theft, fraud, property damage, breach of contract, etc.

            Your act of aggression, violating my rights, is how I learn of your lack of holding to said rights. If you hold to the right to life you do not try to kill an innocent.

            Everything people do is “thought out” and “reasoned” whether well or logically so is another matter entirely.

            Aggression is justified to protect or enforce restitution. If you try to kill me, my right to life is the justification for fighting back, this is natural law. Pacifism is the denial of pretty much all rights. Aggression in the form of forcibly taking property is justified if say I am taking back something that was stolen from me. Or demanding restitution for damages. I am justified in seeking reparations for aggression against me. Aggression in and of itself is only “illegal” if it violates someone’s rights. Two boxers in the ring are legally aggressing against each other. It is consensual. Someone letting kids destroy a pinata is not being aggressed against even though his property is.

            You are mistaking my gist, rights tell me what I may or may not do in regards to others. My right to life means I can defend and protect my life from aggression, and my respect of that right would also keep me from aggressing against someone else’s right to life. Just as I may defend myself they may defend themselves. The right to life is the tripwire of peaceable coexistence turning to unjustified aggression. Killing to eat is a different impetus from killing to enjoy death. Killing to defend yourself is different from killing to take someone else’s property. All these terms and accepted realities of life, property, and self-determination arise from those two foundational rights.

    • Hal Gailey

      For any right to be universal and legitimate it cannot be graduated, selective, or subjective. And it must be reciprocal. An individual human must have its rights for its entire existence or it does not possess them for any of its existence. Your rights cannot be graduated or selective based on age, race, gender, ethnicity, relationship, or position. And any right you hold for yourself, as a human individual, you must hold for all human individuals or there is not a legitimate defense for yourself if YOUR rights are aggressed against.

      • AnarchyPrime

        Where do these rights come from, Hal?

        “An individual human must have its rights for its entire existence or it does not possess them for any of its existence.”

        Why? Why does a clump of cells have rights, when it is incapable of thinking, knowing, doing, or even responding to stimulus?

        • Hal Gailey

          Take your pick, God given, natural, universally preferable behavior, non-aggression principle, human philosophy and logic. Our codifying them is just a construct, as is any agreement to them. As far as nature and the universe is concerned might makes right and whoever survives and reproduces dictates. I’d suggest watching some Stefan molyneux as he is far better than I at explaining these things.

          The nature around us reflects the rights of life and property, any animal on earth will fight to protect its life, many will mark and “own” territory, nests, hills, warrens, tunnels, etc and defend the same. As humans we are talking about the construct of how we interact with each other. As such the very basis of the voluntaryist system is the NAP and our most basic innate rights, the right to life (to live our life and protect it from aggression) and the right to property (the fruits of our labor and the defense of the same) all other rights stem from these or are bastardized projections of these. Free speech? assembly? These are merely things the government has pinky sworn it will not tread upon. That does not make it a right. All of our rights stem from our right to live and our right to the fruits of our labor.

          A “clump of cells” has rights due to reciprocity. If a right is a HUMAN right it must apply to all humans. If it is selective in its application it is not a right, if it can be negated by age or sex or race it is not a right of humans but a privilege of a select group.

          It cannot be dependent on the relationship between individuals, I can kill MY child but not YOUR child, I can imprison any woman between the ages of 16 and 32 but not men, etc. And any right you hold for yourself you must hold for all your fellow humans or it is no right, you have merely dictated a privilege for yourself at the expense of those around you.

          In the vacuum of nature you have no rights, and if humanity ever devolved to the point of nothing but animal behavior, without thought or reason or logic or empathy, i could kill whomever I wanted for whatever reason popped into my head. And would have no qualms about it nor should I feel any betrayal or fear when my life is taken from me.

          In a reasoning human society I, as an individual, exist. I have life and with that life I produce and procure property. I am myself and the sum of my works. I can and will protect those from aggression. And support others who are aggressed against. Those rights and the reciprocal bubbles they create about all humans are the skeleton upon which we build our one rule. The non-aggression principle. The only justified and acceptable interaction is CONSENSUAL interaction. ANything non-consensual or done thru force, coercion, or fraud are aggressive acts and breach the NAP and our human rights. All rights, and acceptable human activity stems from these things. Everything else is a selective privilege, a bastardization, or a feint covering a usurpation.

          I hate to break it to you but just because a zygote cannot hold a conversation doesn’t mean it does not respond to stimulus, it is constantly “doing,” and rights extend to the thinking and non alike. If cogent thought was necessary for rights how many internet trolls and zealots would bear any rights? Any rights that exist are human.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “God given”

            No evidence of a magical sky-father, or any explanation for how he created our rights, so toss that one.


            No one has yet found any evidence of the existence of these so-called “natural” rights. One would think that something called “natural” could be discovered and observed, like any other part of nature.

            “universally preferable behavior”

            UPB is DOA. If you’re not clear on that now, please get up to speed on this. Whatever Molyneux has to contribute to libertarianism, UPB is not it.

            “non-aggression principle”

            Is a conclusion, not a starting point. It is circular to say that rights come from the NAP, when the NAP is itself defined in terms of rights.

            “human philosophy and logic”

            Are methods, not starting points.

            “As humans we are talking about the construct of how we interact with each other.”

            Why not just stick with the “right of might?”

            “If a right is a HUMAN right it must apply to all humans.”

            You’re the one who has assumed that rights are “human” rights. I haven’t made such an assumption. Why should rights only belong to humans? Why not dolphins and chimps? What if we encounter intelligent life from another planet?

            “In the vacuum of nature you have no rights, and if humanity ever devolved to the point of nothing but animal behavior, without thought or reason or logic or empathy, i could kill whomever I wanted for whatever reason popped into my head…..In a reasoning human society I, as an individual, exist. I have life and with that life I produce and procure property. ”

            What does reasoning have to do with rights? You’re describing how things should be once rights have been assumed. But you’ve not given an explanation of where rights come from, other than _listing_ two notions debunked well over a century ago, and the half-baked philosophy of a well-meaning crank.

          • Hal Gailey

            By human rights I mean those rights we hold for ourselves. They apply to all humans because we expect them to apply to ourselves or we forfeit them between us, and they would extend to any who reciprocate, sapient or not, human or not.

            We create rights, and by living by them we make them the system. And those who do not hold to them are cast from the system. The right to life and the right to property are the rights all humans are anchored to. Whether they realize it or not, those are the rights everyone assumes for themselves by working to live. If they do not they may feel free to line up for culling and divestment of their possessions. The fact that line never grows shows people assume those rights for themselves. And so long as they reciprocate those rights they are accepted.

            What does sapience have to do with rights? If I say I have the right to life but my neighbor does not, by what definition is what I hold to a right? All I have done is proclaimed for myself a privilege and debarred a fellow from the same.

            I get the feeling your definition of “anarchy” is a mad max/lord of the flies environment. Anarchy is a system of no coercive state or governance. Not a system of chaos. It is voluntaryism, not coercion through aggression, me over you, and kill or be killed.

            The way you come across it makes me wonder if, in your eyes, I am within my rights to come over to your house knock you out and take your stuff. Do you feel you have no right to your possessions? Do you not have the right to your life? Do I have no compunction on your part to keep me from aggressing against you even unto death? Do you have the right to life and your property? If not I’d love to know what stuff you have available for me to take.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “We create rights, and by living by them we make them the system. ”

            Who is we? Are we creating them on a one-to-one basis? Does each person decide them for themselves? Are we deciding them in some sort of democratic way?

            “And those who do not hold to them are cast from the system. ”

            Can a fetus or a newborn hold to them?

            “Whether they realize it or not, those are the rights everyone assumes for themselves by working to live”

            Can you explain this, please? This doesn’t seem obvious to me. How do you know they’re not simply acting according to “might makes right?” Why do you assume they aren’t simply acting according to a decision to get whatever they can through whatever means they have?

            “I get the feeling your definition of “anarchy” is a mad max/lord of the flies environment….
            “The way you come across it makes me wonder if, in your eyes, I am within
            my rights to come over to your house knock you out and take your stuff.

            On what are you basing these assumptions? I’m just trying to make sure we’re not using fallacious reasoning about rights.

          • Hal Gailey

            What does democracy have to do with anything? In a voluntary society no one has any non-consensual say over another except where rights or aggression are concerned.

            A fetus does not aggress against life or property so in that vaccum yes a fetus does hold to them.

            The fact that you work to prolong and protect your life, and work to acquire and protect your property show you assume these “rights” for yourself. But, unless you hold those same rights for others they are not rights, they are privileges you reserve for yourself. And unless you hold them for all mankind they are not human rights. And they are not a right of sapience.

            If you feel you own your property and your self and may protect these but feel no one else may do the same on their own end? You are assuming a privilege. Even someone who assumes “might makes right” must take with that the fact that they will have to aggress to acquire and defend against those who would retaliate to protect or reappropriate their property.

            If you assume might makes rights that flows both ways. Making “might makes right” A RIGHT, in your mind at least. TO YOU that is a right, and it is so because it flows both ways, you hold to it and by definition must allow it to be held to by others who may choose to aggress against you. But you have no more right to your life or property in that situation than anyone else.

            Anyone who holds to “might makes right” is no anarchist, because any state fulfills that prerequisite, and that person also has no claim on or valid defense of their life or property. because as might makes right, anyone who can take their property or end their life may do so whenever they like because the act of doing so makes that act righteous.

          • AnarchyPrime

            “What does democracy have to do with anything?”

            I was just asking you to clarify.

            “In a voluntary society no one has any non-consensual say over another except where rights or aggression are concerned.”

            Here again you define things in terms of themselves.

            “The fact that you work to prolong and protect your life, and work to acquire and protect your property show you assume these “rights” for yourself.”

            No, it doesn’t. It only shows that I have a desire to have those things. It does not show that I assume there are some sort of rules regarding who ought to have what.

            “And unless you hold them for all mankind they are not human rights.”

            I didn’t call them human rights; you did.

            “And they are not a right of sapience.”

            So you say. But I have given an explanation of why they are. You have not given an explanation for why they are not. In fact, you yourself imply that they are, when you say things like, “you assume these ‘rights’ for yourself.” How can someone assume such a thing if they are not sapient – if they lack the capability for thinking about such things?

            “Even someone who assumes “might makes right” must take with that the fact that they will have to aggress to acquire and defend against”

            Someone who thinks “might makes right” doesn’t think there is a such thing as aggression (defined as actions one does not have a right to take). All they are concerned with is what they can accomplish for themselves.

            “Anyone who holds to “might makes right” is no anarchist, because any state fulfills that prerequisite”

            Interestingly, they also wouldn’t be a statist.

          • Hal Gailey

            define terms with themselves? Voluntaryism is no nonconsensual or coercive interaction. I have not defined in terms of themselves I have elucidated the point. Anarchism is a voluntary society.

            Your assumption that those things are yours shows your hold of a right to property, for yourself at least. I’ll call it privilege from now on since you seem to think you have some claim to property. I may just come over later and rifle through your wallet for some of MY cash. thank you very much.

            Assume for yourself means you hold them as protection for yourself. You do not aggress against others, because you hold these rights. If some other entity, sapient or not, does not aggress against you they are not infringing your rights. YOU hold the right to life, and so long as another man does not aggress against your life you do not aggress against him. WITHOUT holding that right to life, you may decide, for whatever reason, to aggress against him. Whether he holds the right to life or not he may well defend himself, but if he DOES he definitely will defend himself.

            Then don’t use the word aggression if it doesn’t suit you. In a might makes right scenario if you are holding a ball that you took from the hands of another there is nothing to you and that ball, anyone else may do the same ad infinitum with no justification either way for aggression or defense. There is no defense. because there is no aggression. I could literally just decide to kill every person I came across and be no different from the hermit who eats nothing but algae.

            If you want this outlook and existence, feel free, but you are open game to anyone who holds to any rights because you have openly expressed your denouncement of the right to life. You can be no more allowed to exist among those who hold rights as a rabid dog, a psychotic serial killer, or a forest fire. You are nothing but destruction for those around you.

            Rights are what tell us where the boundaries for our actions are and the limits of our defense extend. And everyone can and will overstep those boundaries at some point. And those who hold those rights will have to provide restitution and reparation for said transgressions. Those who do not cannot remain within the population of those who do.

  • Dennis Wilson

    I’m not saying where I stand on the issue personally, because IT DOES
    NOT MATTER. Outlaw abortion, and—no matter what anybody hopes or thinks
    or fears—the country’s headed, right into the black abyss of

    Abortion is the issue that the Left counts on to keep the freedom movement divided. And here we all are today, proving it.

    Excerpts from “HOPE” published in 2001 by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith

    tinyurl (dot) com/Abortion-from-HOPE

    • Manley Caughell

      We have a plethora of would be tyrants in the “liberty” movement, whom would force their views down other’s throats at gun point given the chance.
      Bunch of rapists, murderers, and thieves seem to be here, I need to find real anarchists to hang with, this whole “I can claim your body as mine cause my moral superiority so I can use force on you to whatever end I see fit” thick right libertarianism is just disgusting and cramping my style. Thick left is obviously delusional and/or power hungry, filled with double speak. These right thicks are just a bunch of GOP fucks who probably still have a Romney bumper sticker on their car.

  • Damien Hollon

    There are some scenarios I’d like to throw out that help view the topic in different ways. They are not exactly similar, but close enough to help gain perspective. First, though, I’d like to say that I also don’t think there is anything to be done about abortion, and until a solid answer can be agreed on about when a fetus becomes a person (intuitively, I feel there is a difference), nature provides us with a pretty solid line of demarcation– birth. These scenarios focus on child abandonment.

    Imagine that your only surviving parent becomes afflicted with some horrible disease, say alzheimer’s, and requires ’round-the-clock care. You put them in a nursing home, and agree to pay the bills for their stay. One month, you miss a payment, and the nursing home notifies you a week later that your payment didn’t come on time, so they stopped feeding your parent and they are now dead. Something feels wrong about that, doesn’t it? But you technically breached your contract, and so the caregivers had no obligation to care for the sick parent any longer. However, they could have easily avoided the parent’s death by calling you when you missed your payment, and you could have gotten the money together or picked up your parent. If you can save a person’s life who is trusted to your care with a mere phone call, can we punish you for not making it?

    Another scenario. What if you kidnapped a person and threw them into your basement. Now, what if you decided to stop feeding them and they died? Holding them against their will didn’t kill them, but your withholding of food did. Should you be charged with kidnapping and murder? Did you have an obligation to feed this person once they were trapped in your home in order to avoid their death?

    I feel these two scenarios highlight some kind of rethinking on the rights of people who cannot possibly sustain themselves, and are trusted to caregivers without their consent. Remember, a child, like the kidnapped person and the father in the nursing home, never gave consent to be under the care of others. Can we say the kidnapper consented to providing food to his victim, less he become a murderer? Can we say a parent consents to sustaining the life of their child less they also become a murderer? And to tie in the first scenario, should we expect that parents who no longer wish to care for children see them to a next-in-line caregiver?

  • Re: “When one sets in motion a course of events that they reasonably expect
    will cause the death of another, and a death does in fact occur, they
    become a killer. If abortion be the one crime libertarianism cannot
    punish, so be it, but let us not become cold blooded advocates of child
    abandonment, by glossing over the fact that it is an unspeakably
    horrific act of irreparable violence to murder helpless innocent babies
    with our carelessness.”

    = *COUGH*

    “What about notification? Must the man who wishes to abandon the interior portion of his land notify others of his act? Yes. And this follows not from any positive obligation whatsoever, but rather from the logical implication of what it means to abandon something. You cannot
    (logically) abandon something if you do not notify others of its availability for their own ownership[9]. At most, if you do not undertake any notification, you have not abandoned it, but rather are simply the absentee owner over it.

    Suppose you leave your old sweater in your closet. You never wear it any more. But you do not give it to the local Good Will organization, nor do you sell it, nor do you do anything with it except possibly contemplate it from time to time. Have you (truly) abandoned it? You have not. Instead, you are still the owner of it, and are (temporarily, for the moment, even for the rest of your life) not using it any more. You have, in a word, not yet succeeded in abandoning it. In other words, abandoning property is not something you can attain merely by wishing for it[10]; merely by no longer using it; merely by no longer exercising the tradition ownership rights over it. No.

    In order to succeed in fully or truly abandoning your property, you must take two steps: first, you must notify others that you have indeed abandoned your property, and second, you must not set up roadblocks preventing others from homesteading your now abandoned property. If you do not and your actions with both of these requirement, it cannot be said of you that you have successfully engaged in an abandonment of your property. […] This is not a positive obligation. Rather, it is part and parcel of the rights/responsibilities of owning property in the first place.”

    But in the present case what is being shielded from homesteading
    is not land, but rather a baby. This would be equivalent to murder, and
    those responsible for be treated very severely[19]. Second, take the
    case where the parents who are abandoning the baby place no physical
    barriers against the entry of would be homesteaders of it to their home,
    but instead fail to notify anyone of their intention. Again, a similar
    result applies: the parents are guilty of murder.

    Their position is an intellectually incoherent one[20]. They claim to be abandoning the baby, but, as we have seen from the case of the sweater considered above, they have succeeded in doing no such thing. Rather, they are in a situation with regard to the baby where it is still in their care, but they are not caring for it. That is the paradigm case of child abuse, a
    serious crime indeed, and if it persists until the death of the child
    they are guilty of murder also.

    — Walter Block (http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block-children.pdf). Also, there’s numerous reasons why adopting the Evictionist position would actually save countless lives. Educate yourselves: http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block-whitehead_abortion-2005.pdf

  • Dennis Wilson

    So what is the proper “libertarian” POLITICAL POSITION on abortion?

    Highlights from “Abortion: An Excerpt From Hope”,

    published in 2001 by Aaron Zelman and L. Neil Smith

    [ The full excerpt is available at: tinyurl (dot) com/Abortion-from-HOPE ]

    “Well, if nothing else, gentlemen, its
    brevity is commendable. It simply bans abortion anywhere within the
    United States, their territories, on US military bases overseas, or on
    American ships at sea. So where’s the rest of it?”

    “That’s right, Senator, the rest of it. When I was a schoolboy, before the Roe vs. Wade
    decision, something like 50,000 women a year were dying from botched
    abortions of one kind or another, either self-inflicted, or at the hands
    of some back-alley butcher. What that tells us is that, whatever the
    law may decree, women will still take huge risks to control their own

    “Well for example, you don’t want American women skulking off to Canada or Mexico to get their abortions, do you? So
    where’s your provision for physical examinations at the borders to
    detect pregnancies leaving the country, or terminated pregnancies coming
    back in?”

    “…if you seek to outlaw abortions, you’re
    going to have to add an enforcement clause to this legislation, aren’t
    you? And you may even have to create a whole new federal bureaucracy to
    do the enforcing. I certainly can’t imagine any existing law enforcement
    agency that I’d care to see doing it, can you?”

    “there’ll have to be agency regulations
    that go along with the law and sustain it. To begin with, I suppose you
    gentlemen realize that you’ll have to insist on mandatory monthly
    pregnancy testing for every female in the country, from puberty to

    “Maybe you’ll want to require women to show
    up once a month down at the local offices of the… well let’s call it
    the ‘Pregnancy Enforcement Administration’, shall we? Or maybe you can
    just issue them a home pregnancy test kit every month and they can use
    it and send in the results—although can you trust them to be that
    honest? You’ll also have to accept the fact that you’ll be creating a
    whole new underground market for false test results.”

    “the mother-to-be will be criminally
    prosecuted if she drinks or smokes while pregnant, or exposes herself or
    her baby to secondhand smoke or to any other politically incorrect
    influence—perhaps even if she eats too little or too much of the
    currently right or wrong thing. It will probably be called ‘unborn child

    “How can you outlaw a thing without taking
    steps to make sure that people don’t do it? Even if you don’t write
    those provisions into your bill, others who come along later will try to
    make political hay of their own by tightening up all the ‘loopholes’
    that you left for them so thoughtfully.”

    “… a woman who’s
    obviously pregnant—involuntarily—or has a history of attempted
    abortions, or who happens to fail a psychological evaluation will have
    to be subjected to various kinds of physical restraint, ranging from
    house arrest with an electronic anklet to keep tabs on her whereabouts,
    to the local jail where she can be watched, to a federal prison, to
    forced hospitalization, to a padded cell in some lunatic asylum, to a
    straitjacket. She might even be forcibly sedated—turned into some kind
    of zombie—for the term of her pregnancy.”

    “Of course you’ll have to outlaw all wire
    coat hangers, knitting needles, chopsticks over a certain length, or
    anything else that can be used to induce a self-abortion. Maybe
    registering these items and licensing their owners will be enough.
    Although in that case, the coat hangers, knitting needles, and
    chopsticks will all have to have serial numbers.”

    “Any contact between a woman and her health
    providers will naturally be suspect. If she goes to her doctor, even to
    have an ingrown toenail removed, they’ll have to be ready to prove they
    weren’t planning an abortion, possibly by recording every word they say
    together. If she discusses the weather for too long with her pharmacist
    at the drugstore, they’ll be subject to interrogation by PEA…
    greenshirts… who’ll want to know if what they talked about was RU486.”

    “Likewise, each and every miscarriage,
    however tragic, innocent, or accidental,” Alex said, “will have to be
    investigated like a homicide, with all of the invasions of privacy and
    violations of rights any homicide investigation entails. And there’s
    plenty of room in there for another kind of miscarriage—a miscarriage of
    justice. If a woman can be shown to have taken one vitamin pill too
    few—or one vitamin pill too many—when she was pregnant, some ambitious
    prosecutor will make her life even more miserable than it is, by trying
    to nail her for manslaughter.”

    “…little items like the parental licensing laws they’ve wanted at
    least since the Clinton Administration. When that happens, when couples
    fail to
    qualify for a government license—maybe because they own guns, or drive
    an SUV, or smoke, or like to barbecue red meat—their unlicensed kids
    will be seized by the state and raised in the crèches socialists are so
    fond of.”

    “Folks probably thought Prohibition
    couldn’t happen. But a million marching morons—well-meaning do-gooders
    and busybodies—couldn’t be wrong, could they? Never mind that they were
    screwing people’s lives up beyond all recognition. Never mind that it
    brought us the first turf wars, drive-by shootings, poisoned booze,
    cement overshoes, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
    Never mind that, once it was repealed, the enforcement boys still needed
    their jobs, so we got the war on guns, the war on drugs, and
    eventually, the war on tobacco. …you can’t claim to outlaw abortion without it”

    will give rise to a reign of terror like nothing seen before in
    America. You’ll be enslaving no less than half the population. It will
    create a new army of armed and armored nannies. It will devour your
    wives, your sisters, your daughters, and your granddaughters. It will
    destroy all that’s left of what America was supposed to be about. But
    you’ll have made your point, you will have passed your law, and you and
    your constituents will be happy.”

    never said where I stand on the issue personally, because it doesn’t
    matter. Outlaw abortion, and—no matter what anybody hopes or thinks or
    fears—that’s where the country’s headed, right into the black abyss of

    “…abortion is the issue that the Left counts on to keep the freedom movement divided.

    And here we all are today, proving it.”

    I shouldn’t have to be the one to tell you that you’re going to have to
    grow up, swallow hard, and do your best accept the fact that, as
    fervently as you loathe abortion, a great many other people in this
    country disagree with you just as fervently. It’s absolutely vital that
    we shut down this endless, pointless argument, and move on with our real
    work—fulfilling the promise of the American Revolution.”

    So what is the proper “libertarian” POLITICAL POSITION on abortion?

    Abortion should remain legal . But not one red cent of federal tax money should ever be spent on it again.


    REMINDER: There is NO Constitutional authority to control abortion–or drugs, alcohol, guns, Immigration or Emigration.

    [ The full excerpt is available at: tinyurl (dot) com/Abortion-from-HOPE ]

  • Hal Gailey

    That is an interesting explanation… I’m not liking the referring to a child as property, but in the case where such is seen as property this is a really interesting slant. I do not say I agree but I will read a bit deeper into his reasoning and rationalization.

  • Doofor

    Most of the problems with abortion and racism come from poverty and artificially restricted options due to coercion.
    Libertarian anarchists should focus on creating a wealthier society where people have the fullesst range of options possible.
    Using force to achieve a group consensus of “whether incident A is murder” is yet another statist circle jerk whose net result is more poverty and less freedom.
    The garbage man is responsible for his own safety. Every pregnancy is a unique instance with an extremely limited circle of interested parties, and no connection to any other pregnancy whatsoever.

  • Josh N Sondra

    This is the most outstanding libertarian argument on abortion that I have ever read. -J

  • spidy

    While I do not agree with everything said here, finally someone has pointed that the child is not a tresspasser. The mother and father of child are responsible equally for it’s conception.

  • Korey

    I think anti-abortion people tend to miss the point of evictionism. It is fundamentally a pro-life position. It’s about finding new ways to address an issue, in the most nonviolent way possible. Block has said this many times. It’s about striving toward a world where removing the child and harming the child are not the same thing. The evictionist principle basically comes from this concept. We can make this a reality through technological advancement, but we’ll never get there by making abortion illegal. There’s no reason one can’t argue evictionism FROM an anti-abortion standpoint. In fact, that’s the only way I ever really thought about it, before this deluge of angry objections.

    Chris, you seem to agree with all the most important tenets of this, but you’re getting hung up on word choice, or semantics, or something. Especially since you focus mainly on the “starving” thing. As we “brutalist” folk know, libertarianism only addresses the issue of aggression. The rest is up to the individual to figure out. Perhaps that’s why Rothbard didn’t go into detail on why starving a baby is not such a wonderful thing. We all pretty much KNOW that, already. Look at the way people react to the concept. Given that we do react in such a way, do we really think it’s going to be a problem in a free society? Hell no. And you pretty much admitted that yourself, so I guess I’m just not seeing where you’re taking issue. Are you just worried about how statist idiots might misinterpret this? Because I thought we weren’t supposed to waste our time on that. I mean, anyone who reduces all of the above to “Libertarians want to starve babies” is probably beyond rational discussion.

  • moderatetheelectorate

    Abortion and unwanted pregnancy is the lowest it’s been since they started tracking it after Roe v. Wade with better education and access to birth control, particularly long term ones like IUDs, tubal ligation, essure, and the implant. Regardless of people’s stance on abortion, everyone should agree focusing on preventing abortion and addressing the socio-economic reasons why they have them in the first place is far more effective than vilifying them and making them feel shittier than they already feel. I fail to see how doing so actually helps prevent abortion. Education is actually the best deterrent to preventing pregnancy. Not sex education. Just education. People are also far more educated than they ever were in history and more people have a highschool degree and at least some college education than ever. Women have 60% of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I’m sure this probably contributed to the decline in unwanted pregnancies. Another big deterrent is having support and non-judgment from her family, especially from the father. Encourage fathers to step up and be a man and care for their children. Access to free daycare is another big one. 20 years ago, Millionaire Harris Rosen donated $9 million dollars to 2500 residents of the crime filled Tangelo Park in Orlando, FL for free daycare and free tuition for students to go to college. Today, the crime rate has been cut in half and the graduation rate is near one hundred percent. Women who have abortions are also almost always single or are in a bad relationship. Single motherhood is the path to poverty and women in poverty are far more likely to have abortions, especially if they already have children. 2/3 of women who have abortion already have at least one child and have abortions so they can care for the children they already have. It jumped to three quarters after the economy crashed. Sick of this pro-choice pro-life bullshit argument. This helps nothing and no one.

  • What if a fetus isn’t a person? If we just define it like that, the answer becomes really simple.

    • Mashuri Clark

      What if a black human is not a person? Or a Jew? Many attritions have relied on playing with such redefinitions.

  • Heavenly BluE

    Your argument against abortion is simply a “blame the victim” position. Your bomb building analogy is not on point because in that case you intentionally set out to create a bomb whereas in the case of pregnancy, the couple in question only set out to have a good time. Creating a baby was an unintended side effect – the equivalent of taking a pill for your health in which the side effects are known and published, but you take it anyway with the belief that the benefit outweighs the risks.

    If the couple did not intend to get pregnant but merely wanted to have fun, dismissing the 5% chance of pregnancy as not something to worry about, it’s unreasonable to assert that they have a contract to the baby. Further, no human being has the right to be a parasite on another. If the mother chooses not to allow the baby to siphon her resources for 9 months, she has a perfect right to prevent it. I guess this is the “evictionist” position, with which I agree. Additionally, if the woman chooses to accept the baby over the father’s objection, he cannot be forced to provide for this other human against his free will – child support is wrong and should be voluntary.

    As to the morality of abortion, I thought your mention some stranger stumbling drunk into your home and how you deal with him to be very much on point. That’s a very common way for babies to get into wombs – they end up there as a result of a drunken mistake. The kindly thing to do is provide him with a place on your couch, a blanket, some water, coffee and cab fare in the morning. But as you pointed out, you’re perfectly within your rights to reach for your shotgun.

    • Mashuri Clark

      Terrible analogy. A more accurate one would be that YOUR actions, whether intentional or not, got that person drunk and forcibly brought him/her into your house. A shotgun doesn’t sound so justified now, does it?

      Chris is not “blaming the victim” as you claim. The only victim is the one person who did nothing to cause the situation, which is the unborn child. How does a “5% chance” of something being directly caused by your own actions suddenly relieve you of any responsibility for the outcome? If I drive my car in what is regarded as a safe and responsible manner, yet still cause harm to someone else in a very unlikely scenario, am I magically not responsible for what happens, due to the unlikelyhood of such an outcome, or my good intentions?

  • Naternot


  • McClain Birk

    the child would not exist if it weren’t both conceived and carried to term; it is not the same as inviting someone into your home or your hot air balloon. the implicit contract would actually be, ‘you can have a chance at surviving if and only if you have residence in my womb, but i can change my mind at any time’. you are never obligated to provide aid to someone, you’re touching on collectivism.

  • Tranny Nanny

    Chris, thank you for another interesting article. As you have alluded to, rape vs. non rape has no bearing on the case of abortion as western tradition has largely done away with the idea of punishing the son for the sins of the father.

    The only point of contention is to determine when life begins so that we know when to apply property rights/libertarian principles. That question seems solely to be in the realm of metaphysics.