Is Ron Paul Wrong on Abortion?
by Laurence M. Vance
by Laurence M. Vance
Ever since Ron Paul announced that he was seeking the nomination of the Republican Party for president, I have heard some assorted libertarians complain about his stance on abortion. This includes both libertarians who support Dr. Paul and libertarians who oppose him. Although the arguments of both groups differ, they basically end up saying either:
- I support Ron Paul even though he is wrong on abortion.
- I don't support Ron Paul because he is wrong on abortion.
True, there are usually some other issues included as well (like immigration), but Dr. Paul's opposition to abortion seems particularly to inflame some libertarians — even to the point of stating or implying that he is not a libertarian or that opposition to abortion is anti-libertarian.
The question then is a simple one: Is Ron Paul wrong on abortion?
We know that Dr. Paul is a physician who has delivered over 4,000 babies, but that in and of itself doesn't mean that he is opposed to abortion. So, what exactly does Ron Paul think about abortion? Here are some of his published statements:
The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideals of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.
In 40 years of medical practice, I never once considered performing an abortion, nor did I ever find abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.
In Congress, I have authored legislation that seeks to define life as beginning at conception, H.R. 1094.
I am also the prime sponsor of H.R. 300, which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn.
I have also authored H.R. 1095, which prevents federal funds to be used for so-called "population control." Many talk about being pro-life. I have taken and will continue to advocate direct action to restore protection for the unborn.
Abortion on demand is no doubt the most serious sociopolitical problem of our age. The lack of respect for life that permits abortion significantly contributes to our violent culture and our careless attitude toward liberty. As an obstetrician, I know that partial birth abortion is never a necessary medical procedure. It is a gruesome, uncivilized solution to a social problem.
As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I can assure my colleagues that the partial-birth abortion procedure is the most egregious legally permitted act known to man. Decaying social and moral attitudes decades ago set the stage for the accommodated Roe vs. Wade ruling that nationalizes all laws dealing with abortion. The fallacious privacy argument the Supreme Court used must some day be exposed for the fraud that it is.
Reaffirming the importance of the sanctity of life is crucial for the continuation of a civilized society. There is already strong evidence that we are indeed on the slippery slope toward euthanasia and human experimentation. Although the real problem lies within the hearts and minds of the people, the legal problems of protecting life stems from the ill-advised Roe v. Wade ruling, a ruling that constitutionally should never have occurred.
I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society.
Why would a libertarian have a problem with these statements? Why should it be considered libertarian to kill a baby in the womb or unlibertarian to oppose such killing? And even worse, why would a libertarian say that it was unlibertarian to advocate killing foreigners in an aggressive war but not non-libertarian to kill a baby in the womb?
There are two kinds of "pro-choice" libertarians. The first recognizes that abortion is not a settled issue in the libertarian community and therefore hesitates to castigate fellow libertarians who oppose abortion as anti-libertarian or unlibertarian. They are civil, amiable, and likable — like Walter Block. The newest Libertarian Party platform takes a neutral view of abortion:
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
We oppose government actions that either compel or prohibit abortion, sterilization or any other form of birth control.
The second, and more vocal, group of these libertarians is made up of those who are adamant in their belief that opposition to abortion is anti-libertarian or unlibertarian. When a radical, pro-abortion feminist makes a statement like "fetuses are parasites who derive all their nutrients from the bodies of their hosts, and quite often pose to their hosts serious health complications and risks. Any woman carrying a fetus is being generous," it doesn't surprise me in the least. But some "pro-choice" libertarians make statements that are just as outrageous.
Abortion is legitimate not because a women's body is her own and a fetus is not really a human being anyway, but because a woman's body is her own and abortion of an unwanted fetus falls under her legitimate right to defend her person from unwanted violations of her body.
From the beginning, the right of abortion should have been rooted in the liberal rights of the individual and the equality of the right to self-defense. Those who support abortion should advance the principle that abortion is a component of a women's sovereign right of self-defense of her life against unwanted violations of her body, just as every man has the sovereign right to defend his life against aggression from muggers, thieves or politicians, by using whatever amount of coercive force is necessary to repulse the attack on his life or property.
Forcing pregnant women to carry to term is akin to slavery, and in the same way I would not tolerate a state that permitted slavery, I am unwilling to tolerate the banning of abortion at the state level.
There are several reasons why many Christians have an aversion to libertarianism. I won't get into those here, except to say that being a militant supporter of abortion on demand is certainly one of them.
The non-aggression axiom is central to libertarianism. The essence of libertarianism is that it is wrong to threaten or initiate violence against a person or his property. Force is justified only in self-defense. "Libertarianism," as explained by Murray Rothbard, the twentieth century's greatest proponent of it,
is not and does not pretend to be a complete moral, or aesthetic theory; it is only a political theory, that is, the important subset of moral theory that deals with the proper role of violence in social life. Political theory deals with what is proper or improper for government to do, and government is distinguished from every other group in society as being the institution of organized violence. Libertarianism holds that the only proper role of violence is to defend person and property against violence, that any use of violence that goes beyond such just defense is itself aggressive, unjust, and criminal. Libertarianism, therefore, is a theory which states that everyone should be free of violent invasion, should he free to do as he sees fit except invade the person or property of another. What a person does with his or her life is vital and important, but is simply irrelevant to libertarianism.
Killing someone is the ultimate form of aggression. Especially a helpless, defenseless fetus that is only guilty of suddenly waking up in a womb. The fetus certainly had no control over being a parasite, aggressing against a woman, invading a woman's body, or adding unwanted pounds to his host — but its mother certainly did. If an unborn child is not entitled to protection of life, then to be consistent, libertarians should have no problem with the abortion of a fetus from one month old to nine months old. The nine-month old fetus is no more viable than the one-month old one. In fact, a one-month old baby has the same degree of viability. I hate to be so crude, but leave all three of them unattended on a table in a hospital and see what happens.
So again I ask: Why should it be considered libertarian to kill a baby in the womb or unlibertarian to oppose such killing? This has nothing to do with giving the government greater control over a woman's body; it has everything to do with preventing aggression and protecting innocent life.
This being said, the solution is not a federal law or a constitutional amendment banning abortion. The federal government should not have anything to do with abortion for the simple reason that it should not have anything to do with the majority of what it is currently involved in, and especially crime fighting. That is part of the police power of the states. As I have previously written about Ron Paul's position on abortion:
Ron Paul believes that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided because abortion is simply not a constitutional issue. He doesn't think there is any serious argument based on the text of the Constitution that there exists a federal "right to abortion." He maintains that the federalization of abortion law is not based on constitutional principles, but on a social and political construct created out of thin air by the Supreme Court. Since the federal government has no authority to involve itself in the abortion issue, a federal law banning abortion in the states would be just as wrong as Roe v. Wade.
So even if a libertarian thinks Ron Paul is on the wrong side of the abortion question, because he, unlike most pro-lifers who look to politicians and federal judges for their salvation, wants to remove the federal government from the abortion debate, there is no reason to not support him because he opposes abortion.
Although I strongly disagree with him on the subject of abortion, a recent writer on this site made what I thought was a profound statement about Ron Paul and abortion: "Perhaps Dr. Paul would like to see most, maybe all abortions outlawed. Maybe he has good reason for feeling that way. But so what? The President of the United States cannot unilaterally declare abortion illegal. Who would want to live in a country where he could?" He also recognized the non-calamity that would result should a President Paul appoint additional pro-life justices to the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court cannot simply outlaw abortion nationwide. Instead, the Court could simply rule that it has no jurisdiction over state abortion laws, and send the matter back to state legislatures. Why would that be so terrible? It is unlikely that most states would enact a complete ban on abortions. In 2006, a comprehensive ban was put to the voters in South Dakota by means of referendum. The referendum failed in what is one of the most conservative states in the Union.
If Roe v. Wade were overturned and abortion laws were once again made the provision of the states, there would be nothing unlibertarian about supporting state laws making abortion a crime just as laws against murder, manslaughter, and wrongful death are considered legitimate actions of the states.
I believe that the antagonism toward Dr. Paul among some libertarians is deeper than the abortion question. There is a larger issue lurking here. Some libertarians consider libertarianism to be a lifestyle rather than a political philosophy. These DC/PC libertarians have some strange ideas:
- The more you emphasize alternative lifestyles the more libertarian you are.
- The more you support pornography the more libertarian you are.
- The more drugs you take the more libertarian you are.
- The more religion you reject the more libertarian you are.
These "lifestyle" or "cosmopolitan" libertarians, some of whom — to the detriment of their cause — are condescending, pompous snobs, are not content with personally and culturally conservative libertarians (like Ron Paul) tolerating diversity; they want them to likewise celebrate depravity. They apparently don't know the difference between libertarianism and libertinism. And what makes this even worse is that some of them are also liberventionists — justifying the sending of U.S. troops into other countries to bomb, maim, and kill for the very state they decry.
Is Ron Paul wrong on abortion? Not in the least.
January 29, 2008
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from Pensacola, FL. His latest book is a new and greatly expanded edition of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State. Visit his website.
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