Abortion has been a very sticky issue for a very long time. People on both sides are extremely passionate about their particular perspective, and many are almost eager to engage virtual (and sometimes real) combat in order to ensure their voices are heard. The Libertarian Party has itself been a recipient to the fallout of this grand disagreement, which can be observed by the differing language regarding the issue in its official party platform over time. Take a look at the language from 1994’s official LP platform:
Recognizing that each person must be the sole and absolute owner of his or her own body, we support the right of women to make a personal choice regarding the termination of pregnancy or regarding voluntary surrogacy arrangements. We oppose the undermining of the right via laws requiring consent of the pregnant woman’s parents, consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, or compulsory provision of indoctrination on medical risks or fetal development.
Now compare that to the language used by the current party platform:
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
One will quickly notice that, while the language still leans pro-choice, it is noticeably weaker and acknowledges that there are good libertarian arguments that go against the grain of original party thinking on the issue. One of the largest contributing factors to this change undoubtedly has to do with the many high profile, pro-life libertarians that have emerged onto a higher plane of public visibility between 1994 and the present — bringing their reasoning with them.
Rare editor and former Rand Paul advisor Jack Hunter writes about how examining (and consistently applying) his anti-war stance facilitated his conversion from pro-choice to pro-life. Ron Paul, a libertarian hero for many years, has often talked about his own pro-life stance — derived primarily from a long career as an obstetrician. Rand Paul, Austin Petersen, Thomas Massie, Justin Amash, and many others have similar stories. Judge Andrew Napolitano is one of those many others. In an interview with Reason TV, the Judge talked about his reasons, as a libertarian, for adopting the pro-life position; reasons which have strong roots in the natural rights teaching of renowned Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas. Here is the transcript of that interview:
Reason TV: [Asks about Roman Catholicism and abortion…]
Judge: My opposition to abortion is not only because of church teaching, but also because of the rational examination of the baby growing in the womb and a belief in the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle prevents you from interfering with the life or the property of another human being without moral justification. There is no moral justification for killing a child in the womb.
Reason TV: To push back … when does (your calling it a child), when does the “clump of cells” become a child or is accorded person-hood as a legal concept? Is it from the moment of conception? And if it is, well, that all makes sense but…
Judge: Well, the being in the womb has natural parents and it has all the actualizable human genome necessary to produce a “Nick Gillespie” or a “Barack Obama.” From that, one could rationally argue that the protection of the law is required from the moment of conception.
Reason TV: And so you see that vision of Catholic theology (and it’s not just Catholics) as totally consonant with libertarian ideas.
Judge: Yes, I do.
Reason TV: And it’s about the individual and the potential of the individual?
Judge: Because, we’ll get back to where we started, the only moral goal and activity of government is to protect natural rights. The greatest natural right — is the right to life. Government’s obligation is to protect that.
Judge Napolitano seems to believe that natural rights exist in a hierarchy — with the right to life (free from the initiation of violent force to end that life) occupying the highest spot. Government’s only moral activity, he says, “is to protect that.” Is the Judge right? Is there room in the Libertarian Party for pro-life libertarians who believe in God-given natural rights? I hope so. Watch the Judge’s complete segment (abortion section starts around 26:00) and let us know your thoughts on Facebook or in the comments below.