Abortion – My Theory

I’ve mentioned abortion one or two times in 13 years of writing for LRC. I once saw it as murder. I now reject that opinion. I see it differently now.

If a woman wants an abortion, I do not see how anyone can make her not have it. She cannot be forced to carry to term. Call that her right, if you want to. What of the fetus, then? What about its right?

Before addressing that critical question, let’s turn to some facts. What are we talking about? “In 2015, 638,169 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2015 was 11.8 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years…” That’s a little over 1 woman in a hundred. There’s a lot of women in America, so the absolute number is also a lot; but it’s not large relative to the population.

“The majority of abortions in 2015 took place early in gestation: 91.1% of abortions were performed at ≤13 weeks’ gestation; a smaller number of abortions (7.6%) were performed at 14–20 weeks’ gestation, and even fewer (1.3%) were performed at ≥21 weeks’ gestation. In 2015, 24.6% of all abortions were early medical abortions (a non-surgical abortion at ≤8 weeks’ gestation).”

Nearly all abortions occur at 13 weeks or less. Babies as a rule cannot survive outside the womb at 13 weeks. Hence nearly all abortions that occur at 13 weeks or less, and that’s about 91.8% of them, satisfy Walter Block’s evictionism criterion. Abortion would be legal for them under his theory as they could not survive outside the womb. They would not be legal under the theory that their right to life begins at conception. In that case, the right of the fetus to live and the right of the mother not to carry to term cannot be reconciled. There is no way to choose between these theories.

Abortions at 14-20 weeks gestation, which comprise nearly all the rest, also do not survive premature birth. See here. I realize it’s a terrible thing to have to talk about personal tragedies like this.

The facts of abortion show that virtually all abortions are of fetuses that could not survive outside the womb. They meet Block’s criterion; abortions would be legal for them.

My own theory is neither Rothbard’s nor Block’s, although Block’s has the merit of providing a conclusion not at legal variance with actual abortions. The question is when does a fetus gain the right to life. A sensible answer as well as one not at variance with actual abortions is that it gains this right when it is capable of surviving outside the womb, with assistance, of course. This answer comes to the same result as Block but more simply and, to my mind, more agreeably. It doesn’t view the baby as a trespasser and the female as having an eviction right; these concepts applied to pregnancy attempt to apply notions of property in a novel way but also an unacceptable way. The baby didn’t just cross the border into its mother’s womb of its own accord, disobeying a no trespassing sign. The mother doesn’t thereby gain a right to evict the fetus.

My answer doesn’t assume that conception makes the fetus into a human being as Block’s does. To be a live human being, one must be capable of be-ing, even if it requires assistance that pregnancy or medical substitutes provide after 24 weeks. Fetuses that cannot survive outside the womb are not yet human beings, according to this theory. Women who have abortions in conjunction with medical people who perform them act as if this is the theory guiding their behavior.

In my estimation, abortion is not a major problem in America. It becomes a problem when government gets into the act by supporting it financially when some segments of the population don’t want their tax dollars going toward abortions. Some of us always are finding a number of activities we dislike that are being underwritten by our taxes. This is the result of having a government, and the problem of our disagreeing, more or less in futility, with government’s uses of funds grows as government grows in scope.

Abortion is not regarded as a critical issue by many Americans. The issue is of more importance to churchgoers. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” according to our Constitution. If I were a judge, I’d regard abortion as important enough to the religious beliefs of some substantial portions of Americans that the government should stay out of the matter and make no laws regarding it. The government should neither forbid abortions nor support them.


8:29 pm on December 13, 2018