My Response to a Libertarian Case for Abortion

Over at TowardLiberty.com, J.D. Bridges responded to my recent article “2014’s March for Life: C’mon Libertarians” with his interesting article “No Libertarian Case for Abortion?” My article made a libertarian case against abortion, but Bridges argued “a woman has a property right in her body” and so “abortion…is not murder but really eviction.”

In doing so, Bridges essentially repeated the following argument by Murray Rothbard, one of the most famous libertarian economists and thinkers, from For a New Liberty (1973):

What human has the right to remain, unbidden, as an unwanted parasite within some other human being’s body? This is the nub of the issue: the absolute right of every person and hence every woman, to the ownership of her own body. What the mother is doing in an abortion is causing an unwanted entity within her body to be ejected from it: If the fetus dies, this does not rebut the point that no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person’s body.

However, Bridges should read the chapter “Liberty and the Right to Life” in Randy England’s classic book Free is Beautiful: Why Catholics Should be Libertarian (2012). To show why Rothbard’s wrong and libertarians should be pro-life, England offered the brilliant explanation below. In making his case, England relied mostly on writings by Father James Sadowsky, a Catholic priest who was a colleague of Rothbard and professor of philosophy at Fordham University.

For one, England argued the following to show the unborn aren’t parasites:

From Biology 101, we learned that a parasite is an organism of one species living in or on an organism of another species. A parasite is an invading organism that comes from outside the host and invades tissues—typically in a harmful way—and for the lifetime of the host.1

England pointed out that, aside from rape cases, mothers invite unborn children into their wombs through sex with the fathers. Thus, nearly all unborn children are “expected guests.”

England also described how Father Sadowsky’s following passage from “Abortion and the Rights of the Child” (1978) said that most if not all mothers seeking abortion want to end life and not simply remove “uninvited guests”:

Most of those seeking abortions would be horrified at the thought that the child might survive his expulsion. Just ask your friends if all they are after is simply a premature birth.2

Additionally, England documented how, in the following passage, Father Sadowsky proved abortion is an extreme reaction to an “uninvited pregnancy”:

If the abortion is successful, it is not a living, healthy child that leaves the womb. It is a corpse. Is this any way to treat even an unwanted house guest? While the death of the child may not be intended, this can hardly be said of the lethal and brutal attack on his body. That attack is the means whereby the expulsion takes place; the fetus does not die as the result of the mother’s failure to extend the means of life––it dies of the attack itself.3

Furthermore, England’s following passage described how Father Sadowsky’s article “Abortion and the Rights of the Child” proved unborn babies aren’t even trespassers in their mothers’ wombs:

Sadowsky insists we cannot simply assume that an unborn child has no right to be in his mother’s womb. How can one trespass in the one place where they inarguably belong? A mother’s womb has one purpose: to nurture and protect the unborn child. There is nothing self-evident in the conclusion that the child has no overriding right to be there. Does not human nature itself demonstrate a child’s right to occupy its own mother’s womb? Were it not for the child in her womb, she would have no use for it.4

All considered, I agree with England’s following conclusion:

A pro-life Catholic libertarian has powerful moral and legal reasons for treating abortion as a crime, leaving abortion proponents nowhere to hide except behind the pretense that they are not actually killing a human being. Just as in our society today, it is clear that in a libertarian society, abortion will not be ended where the people disbelieve in the humanity of the unborn child. That leaves pro-life people with the same task they carry on today. They must still change people’s minds about the issue, with hope that enough people will recognize the humanity of the child and the aggression inherent in abortion. Only then will they accept—as they do with all other violence against persons— that it cannot be tolerated.5

Bridges is correct that there are libertarian arguments for abortion. However, Bridges’ and Rothbard’s arguments that abortions aren’t murders but simply “evictions from the womb” are wrong. Libertarians should feel free to join 2014’s March for Life.


1 p. 58.

2 p. 56.

3 p. 56. As another example, England asks if “it would not be justifiable to shoot a child that ran into one’s yard to chase a ball, even if a ‘No Trespassing’ sign were posted.” See pp. 56-57.

4 p. 57.

5 p. 61.

About Dan Smyth

Dan Smyth earned his Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. His articles have appeared in the Washington Times, American Thinker, the Freeman, and other publications. Find him on Twitter at @DanielSmyth7.

2 comments
Locke
Locke

This is an excellent piece. Frankly, I cannot imagine any libertarian who does not think human nature exists.

Locke
Locke

This is an excellent piece. Frankly, I cannot imagine any libertarian who does not think human nature exists.