What Does Evictionism Say?

I have friendly relations with Walter Block, and we’ve exchanged e-mails on evictionism recently. This theory is strong, important, useful, clear, and creative. Any alternative theory, old or new, has to contend with it. This blog doesn’t criticize evictionism; it distills some of the major content in Block’s own words. I’ll provide criticisms at a later date.

What does the theory say? The quotes below are from various papers authored by Walter. They do not exhaust the content of his papers. They extract some but not all of the ideas that are important.

(0) “The question of abortion is entirely one of settling the seemingly conflicting rights of the mother and the fetus.”

(1) “It is absolutely crucial that a distinction be made between killing and eviction.”

“What about removal but non-killing of a viable fetus? That is eviction.”

It’s crystal clear that the theory posits that removal of an unborn baby from the woman’s womb is an act that’s distinct from the act of killing.

(2) “The conclusion is clear: the foetus is an alive human being.”

“The foetus is not a potential human being, it’s an actual one.”

“Every fetus, no matter how created, is a living human being.”

The theory argues that from the time of conception to birth and at any time in between, the unborn baby is alive and is a human being.

(3) “Killing a foetus is therefore murder.”

“…murder is not permitted under the libertarian code.”

“My conclusion, then, is that the mother is within her rights to evict, but not kill, the fetus.”

Since killing an unborn is murder, and since murder is not permitted under the libertarian code, killing an unborn baby is not permitted. This is why eviction, defined as removal but non-killing, must be distinguished sharply from killing for this theory to be consistent with being a libertarian theory.

In one instance in the Block and Whiteman paper, the authors write “…how can we defend the mother’s right to kill the fetus?” I take this to be a slip-up and not part of the theory. The theory doesn’t say that the mother has a right to kill the fetus.

(4) “Abortion is justified because continued unwilling pregnancy is a violation of the mother’s rights to her own body.”

“In all cases,* the foetus is a dependent guest and may be expelled at the discretion of the mother. If the mother’s life is threatened, she may abort the foetus. But she may also have an abortion for any other reason which seems compelling to her.

“* voluntary, healthy pregnancy, rape-induced pregnancy, medically contra-indicated pregnancy”

“…given it is our view that a woman has a right to rid herself of the fetus at any point in this process, for any reason deemed sufficient by herself alone…”

“She owns her own body, and the unwanted fetus growing within it is in effect a trespasser or parasite. This may sound harsh, but when the property rights in question are thoroughly analyzed, it is the only possible conclusion that may be reached.”

“The fetus is not being aggressed against by eviction from a woman’s womb, which is her property; that is, this ‘facility’ is owned by the woman not the fetus. On the contrary, the fetus aggressor, albeit not purposefully, is the initiator of violence.”

(5) “The key element about the gentleness principle (the mother, and the
trespassee, must remove the fetus and the trespasser, respectively, from their domains in the least harmful manner possible) is that it is part and parcel of the ante punishment stage of the scenario; in sharp contrast, proportionality applies, only, to the punishment stage.”

(6) “It is extremely unfortunate that due to the proper exercise of rights, a death will occur…”

“However, if the ‘gentlest manner possible’ implies the death of this very young human being, then so be it: the mother still has that right.”

“In libertarian law, the property owner is entitled to remove the trespasser in the gentlest manner possible; if this necessitates the death of the trespasser, the owner of the land is still justified in upholding the entailed property rights.”

“The position put forth here, in contrast, is one of eviction not of killing. However, if the only way to evict is by killing the fetus, then the woman’s right to her property – that is, her womb – must be held above the valuable life of the fetus.”

Evictionism recognizes that removal “implies” death of the unborn in most instances.

(7) Block envisages that technology will push back the time at which babies can be removed safely. He states clearly that removing a viable baby and then killing it is murder. This is because such a killing ignores the dictum of gentlest possible removal:

“Suppose a viable baby was removed from the womb, and the doctor killed it afterward. It seems crystal clear that would be first-degree, premeditated murder and ought to be dealt with accordingly. It is an understatement of the highest order to say that this is hardly the gentlest manner possible.”


3:09 pm on June 9, 2019