Roe v Wade, Abortion, and Libertarians

hand holding outlines of a nuclear family

co-authored by Van R Mellen Jr & Kasie Whitener

Roe v Wade, has been overturned. Proponents of abortion are infuriated by the repeal of federal protection for abortion, and the anti-abortion lobby is celebrating the end of the 49-year precedent.

More single-issue polarization? Yes, please. Business as usual in American politics.

Where does the South Carolina Libertarian Party stand on the issue of abortion?

For a long time, the national Libertarian Party faced criticism over their position, or lack thereof, on the issue. The platform attempted neutrality, with verbiage that appeared to some to support abortion, and to others as a cop out.

The South Carolina Libertarian Party platform (link) does not specifically address abortion. Instead, in plank 2 Personal Liberty, the SCLP holds: “Individuals are entitled to live according to their own lifestyles, as long as they do not impose their values on or harm the life, liberty, or property of others, and each individual is solely responsible for the consequences of their own actions.” This may read to some as a pro-life stance, in that abortion constitutes harm to another’s life, but the plank goes on to say, “Therefore, the SCLP calls for the immediate repeal of any and all statutes which infringe on the free choice of persons within the State of South Carolina.” Indicating that perhaps the SCLP supports the rights of the mother.

So, what do Libertarians really think about this issue?

Libertarians believe that each individual has the right to their own thoughts and beliefs. This (unlike other political parties) means that one person doesn’t have the right to dictate thoughts, beliefs, or lifestyle to another, so long as fraud, coercion, or aggression isn’t used against others. This includes fraud, coercion, and aggression by agents of the government.

Liberty to live according to your own beliefs as long as you aren’t causing harm to others.

Universally speaking, there are two basic views on abortion. Libertarians believe in bodily autonomy. All women and men should have ownership and domain over their own bodies. When taking into account the life of an unborn child, the bodily autonomy perspective teeters on the fulcrum of a very gray area of science. When does the invitro entity become a human being?

Pro choice libertarians (like other pro-choice advocates) see the unborn as being directly dependent on the mother’s body with no viability to survive without connection to it. This being the case, the mother has rights, and the fetus does not.

Prolife libertarians (like other pro-life advocates) believe that the fetus is a living human being and as such is entitled to the right to life. The unborn child’s rights therefore supersede the rights of the mother.

With so many Libertarians on both sides of this issue, how does the party deal with the controversy? The position is largely misunderstood by outsiders. The party believes that both ideas are valid, and that each individual has a right to their own beliefs. In a Libertarian mindset, it is not appropriate to dictate to either party members or society as a whole, what to believe. In short, the issue is up for debate.

How does that translate into policy? By recognizing that what people believe about the issue is guided by their own beliefs, be they religious, moral, or medical, the South Carolina Libertarian Party position is that the government has no legitimate authority to dictate morals, religious ideology, or medical decisions to individual citizens.

The South Carolina Libertarian Party believes that the state should not be used as an instrument to inflict individual views (even collectively) upon others. Because of this, we must respect the right of every individual to determine for themselves what is right (whether we agree with it or not).

Better solutions to abortion exist. To actually reduce abortion rates, we don’t need to outlaw access to safe medical treatment. As a community, we should find ways to incentivize carrying babies to term:

  • Make financial assistance accessible for women throughout pregnancy and post-partum. Medical costs, nutrition, coaching and education (all the things privileged pregnancies receive) can be made available through community service organizations. 
  • Make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace and protect their jobs during the weeks surrounding delivery and recovery.
  • Make childcare available and affordable so women can go back to work and still provide for the baby.
  • Make adoption easier. Stop looking for white-picket-fence-families and start recognizing the viability of single parents and same-sex couples. Create relationships between mothers and potential adoptive parents. Foster visions of family and community.
  • Make fathers part of the process. Include them in decisions, engage them in prenatal care, and hold them financially accountable.
  • Make contraception accessible for men and women, and make sexual health part of the public human development conversation.

None of these proactive steps toward protecting babies and mothers should be done by the state. We need private citizens who care about babies to put their money, time, and talents toward building healthy environments for those babies to be born into.

For Libertarians, this always comes down to limiting the state’s authority. The state has no right to make broad choices for individuals. Nor should it be expected to provide aid, education, healthcare, childcare, or adoption services. 

For a Libertarian, abortion challenges the non-aggression principle because abortion is harming another person. Even Libertarians who are opposed to abortion are committed to limiting the state’s authoritarian role. Citizens in cooperation with one another, community service organizations and privately-funded or faith-based charities will do a far superior job caring for expectant mothers and newborn babies, and protecting families, than government ever could.

Libertarians would rather see alternative methods, programs, processes, and philosophies implemented by cooperative, non-government enterprises than to grant the state the right to make choices for individuals.

Make contraception available. Fund pregnant women. Protect their jobs during gestation and post-delivery. Keep fathers engaged and accountable. Make adoption easier. Value all families.

These actions save babies. Not endless debates pitting science against faith, or barbaric state overreach. The Roe v Wade controversy is political theater without real solutions. All-or-nothing policies never work. Libertarians would address complex issues with complete solutions, relying upon individuals with free will and a sense of community to collaborate in addressing all of the facets of family planning.


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