where would a libertarian set the threshold? One definition
of an individual which I believe could potentially garner
the support not only of most libertarians, but of most
Canadians, is when the fetus has brain activity and can feel.
That's the same type of debates we are having at the end of
life: someone who is brain dead is not considered a living
individual anymore and most of us consider it morally
acceptable then to end life support.
It's hard to pinpoint a
precise moment when this happens for the fetus, since the
process is gradual, but we know that after the third month,
it starts to react to stimuli. To me, it means that after
that period, we're not just terminating the growth of a
bundle of cells when aborting it, but we are killing an
individual that can feel something, however primitively.
From this perspective, second- and third-term abortions are
a form of infanticide and should be outlawed, except when
the life of the mother is threatened.
Some libertarians (including
Murray Rothbard) compare the situation of the fetus with
that of a "trespasser." The woman should have the right to "expel"
it at any time, just as any of us can expel someone coming
on to our property without being invited. I don't buy this
argument, which is rather repugnant in its complete
disregard of the consequences on the helpless new life.
The major difference
between these two cases however is that in the case of
having a child reside in your body, you acted in such
a way as to create this new life. The mother is directly
responsible for this situation (if we exclude the extreme
cases such as rape), she is not the victim of an aggression
by some outsider who decides to come and squat in her womb.
If you waited (more than three months) until that new life
had some basic form of consciousness to decide that you
don't want to go ahead with the pregnancy, then you should
live with the consequences of your actions. Killing another
individual should not be deemed a legitimate solution to
your indecision, irresponsibility, financial problems,
unstable personal relationships, or any other circumstance
that would justify ending the pregnancy.
There is also the
question of the government paying for this. Feminist
propaganda tells us that it's a hard choice for all women
going through this experience, and that we should make it as
easy as possible for them. But I find it hard to believe
that in Quebec for example, 30% of pregnancies (down from
40% in 2002, but up from 5% in 1975) have to end up in
Why do so many women
resort to this procedure, and even use it repeatedly, as if
it were a benign form of birth control? Like all other
activities that are being subsidized, people tend to find
that it's acceptable to overuse it, no matter the moral
Free and unrestricted
abortion, even in the first term, evidently implies an
aggression: on all those forced to pay for the
irresponsibility of others, and for a procedure that they
find morally repugnant. The socialist nature of our health
care system creates a lot of other problems, but in that
specific case, its immoral implications are even more
obvious. A private health insurance system would force women
undergoing abortion to at least take financial
responsibility for their own action, with the help of
private support groups if need be.
As a libertarian, I would
certainly want to put a lot more emphasis on personal
responsibility (a basic libertarian principle) in the way we
deal with this issue. The end result is that we would likely
have a lot fewer abortions, and a much better balance
between the competing rights of the unwilling mother and
those of the unborn individual who depends on her to