Sunday, August 15, 2004

I've Changed My Mind

It's been coming for a long time. I can no longer resist it. But now that I'm blogging, and thus thinking more deliberately about various political philosophies and their implications for the human condition, I've come to a conclusion. As a libertarian -- who believes that a legitimate function of the state is to protect humans from force -- I can no longer condone the legality of abortion. For one thing, legal abortion is a step on the path to legal euthanasia. But legal abortion stands by itself as a crime against humanity. IrishLaw explains, in a reply to a commentary by Will Baude at Crescat Sententia about a statement by Alan Keyes.

First, Keyes (as quoted by Baude), responding to an interviewer's question:
...I've often asked people: So we are supposed to punish an innocent child because his parents have committed an offense like incest, or his father an offense like rape? Would you want to be punished for the deeds of your parents? Would you want to be killed because your parents committed an offense? We know that that's not fair. ... People like to make assertions.... we should make arguments for the positions we take.
Next, Baude:
Well, that is an argument. It's a terrible one, but it is an argument.

Abortion is not designed to punish the aborted fetus ("killed baby," if that terminology is more to your liking)-- it's designed, in the case of rape and non-consensual incest, to restore a wronged person to her "whole" state. Now if Mr. Keyes means that innocent people (if indeed a fetus is one) should never ever have costs, especially very large costs, imposed upon them by anybody else in the interests of justice, that is an interesting position (though it probably has to be asserted rather than argued).
Finally, IrishLaw:
Start with the first contention. Abortion may not be designed to punish the unborn child in these cases, but I don't see how it can be understood as doing anything but. The child is alive before the abortion, and the child is dead after the abortion. The only reason why this innocent child is different from any other innocent aborted child is the very unhappy circumstance of his conception, which difference lies not with the child; and so from that perspective the innocence, lack of culpability, and lack of necessity for death are the same. But if a child is a human being regardless of how he was conceived, why should abortion be permissible dependent on the circumstance of conception? Of course we want to do everything we can to help a wronged woman become whole again. But actions cannot be undone, and they certainly cannot be undone by killing an innocent third party.

Which leads to the second point. I agree that it is an interesting question whether and to what extent costs may be imposed on the innocent in the interests of justice. Is it just, for example, not to hire (or admit to university) more qualified nonminorities (or non-preferred minorities) so that the asserted just end of making up for past discrimination is served by admitting less qualified, preferred minority applicants? (The Supreme Court says no, though they apparently have accepted that achievement of "diversity" is an acceptable just end.) In that case, justice imposes a cost on innocent third parties who were never personally responsible for discriminatory hiring or admissions processes in the past. There must be many hypothetical situations to discuss in this regard. But in what other case would Will assert that the death of an innocent person was an acceptable cost to bear in the interests of justice for a separate party? That is not only a "very large cost," it is the ultimate cost. I don't see how asking an unborn child to pay with its life (or, rather, not asking but just doing) is justified in the interests of helping heal the mother, no matter how tragic the injury she has suffered.
Once life begins it is sophistry to say that abortion doesn't amount to the taking of an innocent life. It is also sophistry to argue that abortion is "acceptable" until such-and-such a stage of fetal development. There is no clear dividing line between the onset of life and the onset of human-ness. They are indivisible.

The state shouldn't be in the business of authorizing the deaths of innocent humans. The state should be in the business of protecting the lives of innocent humans -- from conception to grave.

I come to that conclusion from a non-religious perspective. I am, at best (or worst), an agnostic. I am no less a libertarian for being opposed to abortion and no less moral for being an agnostic libertarian.

I therefore respectfully refute Feddie at Southern Appeal, who pointed me to the Keyes-Baude-IrishLaw controversy by saying "Libertarians are Republicans without morals." Not so. Libertarians are libertarians because they take a fundamentally moral position, which is that humans have the right to enjoy life, liberty, and happiness.

My position on abortion may not be a typical libertarian position, but neither is it exclusively a Republican position. There are, in fact, a large number of anti-abortion Democrats and more than a few pro-abortion Republicans.