A Few Observations on Evictionism

Walter Block’s theory of eviction from the womb has usefully advanced the abortion debate by its distinctions, such as between eviction and murder. It has advanced libertarian theory by utilizing the concept of trespass.

The theory of eviction of Walter Block posits that life begins at conception, which means a being is present. This assumption is undeniable. This is not to say whether that being is human or not. That is a separate question which is a central matter of disagreement. How far can we get in resolving the debate within the theory of eviction?

We can go a certain distance, which means the theory does partially get us out of the dilemmas that arise under other approaches. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t resolve the debate because it leaves unanswered the question of whether or not the being is human.

Under the eviction theory, a female may ethically (lawfully, rightfully) evict a living being from her womb. That’s her right. If that being is viable outside the womb, meaning it’s medically feasible to keep the being alive, and also someone is willing to take up the infant and supply it with the necessary help and resources to nurture it, then the mother may lawfully abort after renouncing the baby publicly. Her abortion will not be murder. This amounts to adoption, but adoption without the pregnancy running to term.

This theory also says that there is not murder of the being in the womb if no one comes forward to adopt the publicly renounced or abandoned being. It also says that there is not murder if the being in the womb could not possibly survive removal even with available techniques being supplied.

Now, an innocent human being may not lawfully be murdered. This is why any abortion theory must take a position on when a being in the womb is human. Under the eviction theory, when is the being in the womb a human being and when is it not? The answers are implicit in the theory, not explicit.

If viability is absent, then it is not murder to abort or expel the being. Therefore, prior to viability, if the theory is to be libertarian in maintaining that murder is unlawful, the being is not human.

The other case is this. If, after the prospective mother renounces the being in public, and if no one offers to take it up, assuming it is viable, then the being is implicitly not a human being in eviction theory.

Both these cases are flaws in the eviction theory. Why should viability be the property upon which the life, the living being, in the womb is to be regarded as human life or not human life? It’s an arbitrary criterion. If, in the other case, no one takes up the being as a baby because viability is too costly or for any other reason, why do these circumstances determine whether or not the being is human? Again, the criterion being employed to decide whether of not the being is human is arbitrary.

What is called for are criteria that reasonably or ethically or by some modes of thought connected to what we mean when we say that a being is a human being.

For example, we might argue that the being in the womb is a member of the species Homo sapiens and is not a member of any other species. We may define a human being as any member of the species Homo sapiens. If we reject this criterion, regarding the being as not an instance of Homo sapiens, then what is this being? What does it take to be a human being?

We might argue that the being in the womb will in time become a complete human being, while currently being incomplete. If this is argued, when does completion occur? This and the preceding possibility are biological in nature. One may refer to other kinds of frameworks to determine what a human being is or when a being in the womb can be said to be human.

According to evictionism, a woman murders a human being if she aborts a viable fetus without first abandoning it in public to the possible care of an adopter. She has an obligation to fulfill. Otherwise she commits murder. To whom is she responsible via this obligation? To whom is she answering? To the fetus? To society? To others? To her conscience? To a code of ethics?

The eviction theory implicitly invokes a responsibility. The libertarian theory of non-aggression does the same. Neither one says that you answer only to yourself, or that you may do whatever you please. Under eviction theory, there are limits on reproductive rights.

Once responsibility of the woman and the man for the being in her womb is recognized and admitted, we enter into a new domain of theorizing. We recognize that men and women answer to several possible other entities or things.

(This post was edited for substance at 10:41 am, some 2 hours after its initial posting. Grammar was corrected at 2:25 pm.)


8:26 am on May 17, 2019