Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Liberty Vs. Death

Condoleezza Rice told the Washington Times last week that she's "mildly pro-choice"—for libertarian reasons: "I believe if you go back to 2000, when I helped the president in the campaign,I was, in effect, kind of libertarian on this issue, and meaning by that that I have been concerned about a government role in this issue."

But does the libertarian position in fact favor abortion rights?

People are often, though by no means always, drawn to the libertarian movement out of a materialist worldview at odds with both liberalism and conservatism. But the nature of libertarian philosophy invites strong arguments against abortion, as may be found on the Libertarians for Life Web site, which includes a powerfully argued piece by Dr. Joseph S. Fulda, "Abortion: Is Pro-Choice a Libertarian Position?"

Fulda writes:

No movement is more on the side of reproductive choice in its fullness and strict control over one's own body than the pro-life movement. Indeed, the essence of the pro-life position is respect for the reproductive choice made by the couple and flowing directly from the control the woman had over her own body. The abortion advocates, in contrast, do not respect the choice made in its fullness and seek control over the body -- indeed, the very life -- of another.

Thus far, we have twice provocatively referred to the unborn as "another." But the central question in the abortion debate is whether the unborn is, indeed, "another"; human life, that is, individuated from that of its mother. It is, of course, not independent of its mother (not even viable outside the womb early on, yet), but then neither is a neonate and supporters of infanticide cannot be joined in this debate anyway.

Whether the unborn is individuated human life is a theological question and a scientific question. Life becomes individuated, theologically, when God infuses the unborn with a soul, making it a child. Hence, when considered as a spiritual being, the time at which human life is individuated depends on one's religious beliefs: some say conception, others say later. In a secular society, however, it is not the place of the State to decide this question. Fortunately, however, when considered as a strictly material being -- as a mass of chemicals mediated by electrical impulses -- there can be no question, as George Will so eloquently pointed out, that human life is individuated at the moment of conception, since from that moment, "a new DNA complex ... directs the ontogenesis of the organism." That is, as soon as the zygote is formed, a new organism with its own genetic blueprint exists, and it is that blueprint -- and not that of the mother -- that directs the growth and development of the child.

Thus, talk of compulsory pregnancy or forced childbirth is little more than an ideological distraction. To be sure, the pregnancy might have been an undesired consequence of the desired sexual intimacy. But that is compulsory or coercive only in the sense that a man who throws a baseball a great distance for the pleasure he receives can claim that the resulting damage done to a neighbor's window was "against his will" and that the untoward consequence was "imposed" on him. It used to be understood that the laws of nature were not subject to legislative repeal or voiding by the courts and that natural results flowing from voluntary actions are in no meaningful sense "imposed."
Read the whole thing.