October 25, 2003

Libertarian Idiots: The Case of Innocent Trespass

I'm a libertarian. A minarchist, more specifically. If we can further social goals by privatizing, I'm for it. If it's even a close call, we should do it anyway on principle because the long run evidence favors private action over government in most things and the evidence just keeps piling up. But some libertarians are idiots. Here's one that should have stayed in bed rather than intellectually expose himself in this way.

The argument is that partial birth abortion is simply a wedge issue to embarass the pro-choice faction. This is remarkably ignorant of the issues and a real shame for Reason magazine to publish such a weakly thought through article.

The real mother lode of idiotarianism follows

It's not surprising that 64 senators, including many who consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, decided this procedure was indefensible. But is a D&X really more objectionable than the much more common "dilation and evacuation" (D&E) method, in which the fetus is dismembered inside the uterus and removed piece by piece?

If so, it's only because the killing is more visible and because a D&X starts out like a delivery, thereby emphasizing the similarity between the fetus and a baby. Those factors make "partial birth" abortions an easier target politically, but they are morally insignificant.

No, the difference is that the baby is viable. There is a true option here to deliver the baby live. In fact sometimes this happens by accident. The doctor slips and oops, you have a constitutionally protected person. Sorry charlie, you can't kill the kid now. Infanticide's still illegal.

But if abortion is acceptable because the child creates an unreasonable burden for the mother that can't be removed from her body, this justification is completely absent in the case of partial birth abortion. The idea may be that a woman owns her own body but the child is, at most, an innocent trespasser. Choosing death when not strictly necessary to remove the baby would be as if an innocent trespasser would be shot dead with one foot off the property as he was leaving. A partial birth abortion is only done in late pregnancy when the baby is viable and could be removed live. The conscious choice is death instead of removal and adoption (and yes, there are people who would take the kid, go call the Catholics if you're in doubt).

The death penalty is a harsh judgment that should legitimately be reserved for serious crimes. Defense of property, even in the most pure of libertarian states, does not excuse taking a life in the case of trespass as the trespasser is leaving. It goes double when you know that the trespasser simply innocently crossed the lines. Choice is a difficult issue for even the pro-lifers, especially those who believe in liberty. But the choice to take a life shouldn't be easy, and it shouldn't be the preferrential choice when you can remove without death. You don't have to be either religious or a statist to restrict that.

Posted by TMLutas at October 25, 2003 01:23 PM