Thursday, February 16, 2006

Abortion debate heats up over RU486

For what seems like the first time in Australia, the abortion issue is getting widespread coverage in the media as parliament debates whether the abortion pill RU486 should be approved.

Now, most people react to the issue by giving their own personal opinion on abortion. And if you listen to 2 people, you get 2 different opinions.

Most people frame the debate by giving hypothetical scenarios including unintended pregnancies to justify abortion. The other side tend to talk about the sanctity of life, and hold the view that having abortions readily available (in pill form) is an endorsement of the procedure, making it too easy.

So what do I think ? What is the libertarian perspective on abortion ? Well according to Wikipedia, libertarians still haven't reached consensus on the issue.

Libertarian positions tend to mirror those of other views: Many libertarians believe that a woman's ownership of her own body, and therefore her right to control it, includes her right to terminate her pregnancy without any interference. Others believe the unborn child has a right to live, and believe that an abortion is the initiation of fatal force against an utterly helpless victim.
So libertarians don't focus on the social engineering aspects of a policy. Whats good for one family is not always good for another. You can't claim to know the values of every single person in society and then get government to intervene and regulate their lives. Libertarians are only interested in government intervening to stop one person using violence, coercion or the threat of violence against another.

So instead they frame the abortion debate in terms of liberty and rights. One might immediately think this is the same as a pro-choice position, where a woman is free to do as she pleases. This would be the case, up to the point where you consider the fetus as a life and an individual in itself. Therefore it too should have the right to life, and government would have a role in preventing that life from being taken.

One of the basic foundations of libertarianism is a person's property rights, to do what they please with their property ( including their own body-otherwise we would have slavery). A woman should be able to do what she wants with her body. But a woman who voluntarily falls pregnant has made a contract of sorts. She has agreed to grow the fetus in her womb for 9-months. An abortion is a woman using coercion to destroy the contract she has made. Much like a landlord forcefully evicting a tenant who has a 9-month lease.

But the other extreme holds true if you view the fetus as a woman's property rather than a life. No libertarian could justify government intervention because all libertarians believe a person should be free to do with their property as they please.

And in the end, with no clear cut answer.. most libertarians default to their usual position of not giving government the power to ban abortion and tell millions of citizens that they know whats best for them.