Saturday, May 13, 2017
RE: Roaming Millennial Libertarianism Pro Life or Pro Choice?
The problem with the abortion debate, and the reason I tend to stay out of it, is that it is an overly politicized issue debated through cheap appeals to emotion. Neither side has anything approaching a logically valid argument much less a coherent theory of ethics. Take for instance the quip 'Abortion takes innocent lives.' Well so does hunting, fishing, farming, and just about any other activity you could do to feed yourself. You cannot preserve your own life without taking other lives. There is nothing sacred about life. On the other side we have the witty retort 'my body, my rules' or stated another way 'my body, my choice', which we must meet with the rejoinder that you don't have carte blanche over your own body. You are not permitted to use your body to have sex with a minor even if they are willing (statutory rape). You are not permitted to use your body to streak in public (indecent exposure) or use your body to jay walk, or to use your body to be intoxicated in public (disorderly conduct), or to use your mouth to harass others whether in public or on the phone in private. In other words, society can impose limits to what you can do with your own body, and it is completely just to do so. The pro-life rejoinder is to say abortions kill babies, which amounts to nothing more than a semantics game meant to inflame the passions by using a loaded term. Of course the pro-choice retort is that men shouldn't have any say in what women do with their bodies, which is a clear example of the genetic fallacy. I find it funny that women who don't want men to decide what they can do with their bodies also want men to pay for their abortions (through taxes). If someone else is paying for the choices you make with 'your body' then equity requires they have a say in what you can do with your body.
Much of the debate seems to center on the contention of when personhood begins. However, this point of contention is irrelevant. Even if we assume the premise that fetuses are not persons it doesn't follow that the mother always has a prerogative to abort it. Killing pets, who are also non-persons, is illegal under some circumstances. For example, it is illegal to kill a dog for sadistic pleasure. It is equally illegal for an owner to deprive their pet of food or water, or to place them in harsh living conditions or to allow any form of neglect, just because their pet is a financial burden. In other words, the law properly limits a pet owner's prerogative to do what they want with their pet, even though their pet is not legally a person with human rights. What makes abortion moral or immoral does not depend on whether the fetus is a person or not, but on the pregnant woman's intent. In order for abortion to be morally permissible, the decision must be based on some moral principle such as the principle of beneficence: to minimize unnecessary harm to the woman the fetus, and her community. Abortion is immoral if it is done for the sake of expediency or from a selfish intent. Both selfishness and expediency are immoral for what they do to society in aggregate (breaking down social cohesion), and they are no less immoral at the individual level. The principle of beneficence requires that the decision should aim to avoid as much harm as possible to the woman, the fetus, and the community as a whole, with the wellbeing of the woman and her community taking precedent over the fetus when it isn't possible to preserve all three. For instance, if the woman can afford a child and giving birth doesn't pose any threat to her life, then a decision to get an abortion would most likely be done from a selfish motive, and therefore the decision to abort would be immoral. However, it would be permissible if a potential mother was too poor to afford a pregnancy, much less raise a child or if she had some mental illness that made parenting infeasible for her.
As a side note, the godfather of Libertarianism, Murray Rothbard was pro-choice. He also thought parents should have the legal right to starve their children to death, regardless of age, so I wouldn't rely on libertarianism or the 'Non-aggression principle' as a guide to ethics.