Abortion and Individual Sovereignty

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Recently
on this page, the concept of individual sovereignty was introduced
to the abortion debate. The argument is powerful. Like anything
powerful this argument should be considered in full and applied
with care. This need care and consideration are especially incumbent
on us when the result of the application of said power is, quite
literally, a matter of life and death.

Presumably,
most of the people who read LewRockwell.com regularly will accept
the primacy of individual sovereignty. Perhaps there are some socialists,
liberals (oops, redundant), statists, and neocons (oops, did it
again) who hang around just to raise their blood pressure and who
would not concede the point. For the sake of brevity, never my strong
point, I'll assume the point, address the rest of the denizens in
the choir and leave the collectivists to fend for themselves.

Insufficiently
applied, the concept of individual sovereignty as a means for evaluating
abortion rights will necessarily stop short of reaching the desired
goal of a consistently principled and moral conclusion on this critical
subject. To cede to a woman the power of life and death over the
life inside her body because it is inside her body is just such
an early terminus.

Let's
examine this line of reasoning. Changing a couple of words but maintaining
the logic of the argument can, perhaps, be instructive. By substituting
the words "government" and "borders" the argument
could be used to justify Waco. Make it "alliance" and
"continent" and we will have excused Belgrade. Use "landowner"
and "plantation" and it serves nicely as a defense of
slavery. All of these practices – slavery, government murder and
abortion – are abominations and they exist precisely because they
extend the right of sovereignty insufficiently to some but not all.

The
argument falls short when it concludes that a woman's sovereignty
over her body gives her sovereignty over the life and body of the
child growing inside her. You might call it a person or you might
call it a fetus but it is undeniably a life and it is as much an
individual as is the mother and therefore possess all the same rights
to individual sovereignty. In the age of genome mapping there is
no denying that when the sperm and the egg join, the DNA is set.
The joining produces a unique individual. It produces life. If individual
sovereignty is to mean anything then all individuals must be sovereign,
including newly created ones.

To
say that because this happens inside the body of the mother she
has sovereignty over the new life as well as her own is to say that
having the power of life and death gives us the right to exercise
that power. At its root this is saying no more than that might makes
right. If we will not allow this line of reasoning to be used to
excuse the taking of lives in Waco or Belgrade or to allow owning
slaves how then can we accept it in the case of the most defenseless
lives of all? I do not believe we can.

For
any individual to be sovereign over himself at any point in his
life all individuals must be recognized as sovereign at all points
in life. This requires defending human life, especially when it
cannot defend itself, as at its beginning and near its end. It means
defending life against the exercise of external power whether by
the state and its armies of soldiers or by the mother and armies
of abortionists. The principle is the same and our response must
be the same if we are to be principled, moral people.

The
importance of winning the struggle against abortion cannot be overstated.
If you seek the causes of school violence, societal breakdown and
lack of respect for individual sovereignty you need look no further
than Roe v. Wade. While not the sole source of our decay abortion
is crucial to that process. Can we expect moral, civilized behavior
from children who have grown up in an America that has ended forty
million lives over the past twenty-five years by aborting new life?
Can a society that not only allows but enables and even encourages
such a practice survive? Should it?

I
recognize that the battle must be won as it was lost: over time
by winning hearts and minds. Jailing mothers who have matured in
the culture of death that we have allowed to develop is neither
compassionate nor productive. But that does not mean we can afford
to settle into comfortable positions on some abstract moral high
ground and take satisfaction in assigning blame. To end the slaughter
of abortion, and it must be ended if we are to continue, indeed
if we are to deserve continuance, we must not mince words but neither
may we be satisfied with heaping opprobrium over the fence onto
our neighbor. We must encourage and teach with patience and we must
be consistent in our advocacy of individual sovereignty no matter
the individual.

Ed
Cobb is a printer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He is a northerner
by birth, a southerner by choice, and a Catholic by the grace of
God.

    April
    28, 2001

    Ed
    Cobb [send him mail] is
    a printer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He is a northerner by
    birth, a southerner by choice, and a Catholic by the grace of God.

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