the belligerent claimant in person
Allen Hacker
animated in the cause of freedom

Thursday, July 14, 2005

           

Abortion

Here's a little something I posted as a Member thereof to the LP California Executive Committee private email discussion list:

Xxxx (and All),

This may be a difficult read emotionally. I urge you to accomplish it just the same.

I have already granted that your position on abortion is, however extreme, consistent with an isolated application of our Principle to your dominion over your body.

However, the LPC is pro-life per its own statement of principles and platform!

I. STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES OF THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF CALIFORNIA

"We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that, where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual, namely:

"(1) the right to life-- accordingly, we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others;"

II. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

"RIGHT TO LIFE: People have the right to be free from those who would physically injure or kill them. No one has the right to take the life of an innocent person. The right to life does not preclude the right to self-defense or the defense of another under imminent attack.

"RIGHT TO LIBERTY: People have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, to pursue any lifestyle or course of action they wish, while taking responsibility for their actions and not violating the rights of others in the process."

As you can also see, the LPC has an official position of pro-responsibility to the rights of others.

Note that the word "abortion" only appears once in the entire platform, in Section IV.10.F.1, which opposes government paying for abortions.

So. If you abandon the narrow focus I mentioned in my second paragraph above, you and a lot of other people have got it wrong.

This is understandable, given that the Convention appears to have made an exception through platform Section IV.11:

IV. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL ORDER

11. REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

"The State of California should not regulate, prohibit, subsidize or encourage any reproductive choice. We defend the right of all persons to privacy in and control over every aspect of their biological nature, such as contraception, termination of pregnancy, surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination, cloning and free choice in all consensual sexual relations."

Now there's an apparent catch-22: one section of the Platform seems to be in contradiction to its preamble and to the statement of principles.

How to resolve that?

One way is to simply decide you like one part or the other. Of course, if you take the pro-abortion side, you are denying the statement of principles and you have to stop saying that you support the statement of principles unless you allow every time that you make certain exceptions. Of course, doing that renders the statement worthless, so you might as well just stop saying you support the statement of principles and admit that you're only guidance is a conflicted plank in the platform.

On the other hand, you can choose principle over platform on the grounds that the platform is subordinate in that it is merely an implementation, which is by definition of a lesser rank:

III. IMPLEMENTATION

"While recognizing that our society, shaped by government interventions, is complex and resistant to change, unless otherwise stated, the actions called for in the planks that follow are to be taken as quickly and efficiently as possible without interruption or delay."

Huh. Sounds like an issue for the Style and Judicial Committees. But then, maybe not. Nothing can stop the Convention from being inconsistent if a desire for integrity doesn't.

The problem so far, choosing either of the above "resolves", is endless competing purity campaigns.

BUT THEN: maybe the language isn't inconsistent even if the Convention's intent was. Maybe cooler heads prevailed in the details and a reasonable compromise was reached without the majority quite realizing it.

Plank II.11 calls for complete privacy and control, and includes termination of pregnancy. But does this include abortion? Not if you want the plank consistent with the platform preamble and the principles. So how can this be reconciled? By allowing that there might be non-lethal means for terminating pregnancy without killing the fetus.

Then there's no conflict at all, just an impatience with medical science. And an implied position in support of such medical research and development as may facilitate the availability of that means.

Anyway, taking principle above platform plank on grounds of inconsistency in the interpretation of the plank, and/or of dedication to principle above all, this would be the position:

If a person is alive, you do not have the right to kill him/her. That s/he is haplessly inside your body is not license for you to murder; it is, if you don't want the burden, your situation to find a least-risk way to liberate him/her. And if there's none, you ask yourself, "What did I do to get this way?" If you did nothing and it's no way your doing, then there could be reasonable exceptions as have already been proposed by pro-life people and discussed below. Otherwise, as in all things libertarian, you accept the consequences of your actions and begin the search for an adoptive solution.

You're right about the trespasser analogy. The trespasser is there through an act of free will, and stays after warning as an act of intent. There's no way to know whether the fetal person decided upon a particular host, or whether it even comprehends the admonition to vacate. Or has the means, if it wished to comply.

I do have a strong difference with you on the point of whether or not there should be laws compelling people to feed their children or pull them out of the pool if they can't swim. Of course there should be! Why? Because that's parental responsibility. And there just isn't a valid argument to override that responsibility which can be based on whether the parent wanted to be a parent or not (or changed his mind).

The only "out" for an unwilling parent is the safe and responsible transfer of the children to someone who wants to care for them. And since there is always someone willing if not eager, there's never any justification for any more extreme force in the matter than the implied emotional rejection.

Abortion is an important issue. It split the party back in the day. It's the reason Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican --he's seen something you and I will never be privileged to know! Further, this is a valid venue for its discussion because it is the responsibility of this Board to recommend policy to the stakeholders. That's us, as the elected functionaries of the Party, doing our duty to the Convention. We must, and refusing to discuss sensitive issues is criminal avoidance in my book.

Of course, the discussion has to be rational and respectful, and in the issue of abortion, it was never either.

We need to look at all of the Principle, not just the self-serving part. There's a huge implied responsibility that is required of a Libertarian. Libertarianism simply isn't possible in a "real world" of irresponsibility.

You get drunk, you've waived your choice as to driving a car. You have an accident, you're liable for the damage, responsible for the consequences.

You willingly have sex under vulnerable conditions, you've waived your right to not be pregnant. And if you get pregnant under those conditions, you've waived your choice as to maintaining that life until you can safely hand it off. If you must depersonalize the rationale, think of it as a debt incurred in a fit of stupidity; you still have to pay it off unless someone else will volunteer to pay it for you --no Libertarian would argue otherwise.

Take note that the real argument is not and has never properly been against unwanted pregnancies --those are just temporary if large inconveniences. The real argument about enforcing a lifetime of unwanted child-rearing. Put that way, there's no issue: we allow people to give up unwanted children. In fact, were we not Libertarians, we would insist upon it.

If the fetus is a human being, it has the right to life under law and under our statement of principles, and nobody can use any more force than is necessary to safely remove it from the womb.

You know, a lot of Libertarians are arrogant in their atheism or objectivism (same thing, really), and they are disgusted with the pedantry of the professing religious. But in this matter, it is the professing religious who have always been consistently reasonable. They don't impose an all-or-nothing edict on the pregnant or the candidate, the way you impose one on the fetus and the candidate. They allow a set of exceptions to their rule of protecting yet-unborn lives: rape, incest, unviable fetus, mortal threat to mother's life, serious threat to mother's health. Given that they are coming from a somewhat different set of principles, all of these exceptions are reasonable and are not compromises.

Personally, as a Libertarian candidate invited by the Pro-Family Coalition to stand for their endorsement in 1982, I could almost live with that. I just wanted one more exception, that a judge could be petitioned and grant an allowance for an unforseen reason, but the Coalition was bound by its own strict policy, and so I didn't get the endorsement they so badly wanted to give me. I believe that, as much as any other factor (and there was only one, surmountable one), that is what prevented us from electing a Libertarian to the Nevada State Senate 23 years ago.

What might the world be like now, had it gone the other way, then?

Of course, the LP's idiotic response was to guarantee that we'd never get the Christian and Muslim vote by prostituting itself to the feminist movement. But I understand that: so many Libertarian men are so lucky to get any sex at all that they'll do whatever it takes to get it.

And so we Libertarians, who demand full accountability from everybody else and each other in all other things, have made a practice of excusing the sexually irresponsible from all consequences.

That is a gross breach of integrity, and everybody sees it except us.

THIS is why we can be painted Libertine.

THIS is why we can't get most of the third-party vote.

THIS is why we have not overrun the AIP/Constitution Party. All of their other disagreements with us are negotiable --prohibition and the drug war, all of it. But not murder. Not parental indifference. Not irresponsible freedom. Not total selfishness.

So ..., I ask you to examine the libertarian principles and your beliefs. Do it asking this simple question: does my understanding lead to the civilization I want? Then ask yourself if that's the society and civilization most people would want if they were of clear heart and mind. (Of course, you'll have to set aside your own anger to do that....)

Do you want a world of indifference and isolation? Or one in which most people are friends despite their differences or even if they don't ever meet, and are there for each other so that charity exists where welfare is unheard of? And people band together ad-hoc to defend against the occasional insane person's aggression so that police and armies aren't needed?

Which world do you fit into? The one where people make reasonable efforts to help each other out of passing difficulties, or the one where everyone walks by the hungry child in the gutter and thinks, "Somebody oughtta do something, but it's not my problem and I'm busy just now"?

This isn't just what I care about. It's what the voters care about.

I've always harbored a concern that people aren't good enough for a libertarian world. They could be, but they'd have to do a lot of growing up, a lot of becoming responsible.

Lately, I've developed a parallel concern, that Libertarians aren't rational enough to build a Libertarian world. If the second concern bears out, the first is irrelevant. Therefore, we need to resolve these things before we can reach out to the public and expect something other than scorn and dismissal.

The conclusion is clear. We have a duty to the rights of others. We have the means of relieving unwanted parental burdens. We have or will soon have the means of relocating the fetus. So there's already freedom from parenting and impending freedom from ongoing pregnancy. These are really good things because the LPC principles do not support a favorable stance toward elective abortion.

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Comments:

An excellent explanation, Allen. The problem can be solved, morally, without the death of the child. Such it has always been.

If you remove too many of the footballs that the political parties use to divide us, the people might get the idea that we don't need parties or even elections...(hehehehe) ;)
 
I really like how you stated the verbage and made your point on this one. I'm in absolute agreement and am glad others feel the same. I also had a feeling that this very thing is way Ron Paul is a "R".
 
Allen, you correctly identified the source of the issue regarding whether or not abortion is murder. To quote:
.
If the fetus is a human being, it has the right to life under law and under our statement of principles,
.
The important starting point is to examine whether or not a fetus is a human being.

You cannot evade this analysis by invoking high school biology. The whole point of my question is to ask whether every "biological" entity that has 43 chromosomes, etc. has human rights?

I think this is an interesting question that libertarians, who oppose slavery moreso than most other people, should ask themselves.

Where do human rights come from? Maybe for a Christian the issue of human rights is the same thing as "immortal soul," and high school biology teaches us that the "immortal soul" enters the body at the moment the sperm enters the ovum (at least in Kansas, that's what high school biology teaches).

But I think libertarians should stand aside from the religious answer and look at the question of where (and when) human rights come from without reference to concepts like "immortal soul."

Can we agree on that?

I hate long messages to read on line, so I am stopping now to let you digest the above. More comments tomorrow.
 
Hi Joe,

I have to begin by saying that you can't limit the question to chromosomes with people who simply don't define life that way.

However, I am willing to attempt a chromosomal policy discussion in the matter. Unfortunately, that gets to being a short conversation because, as I've alluded, I am not qualified to make the determination in that context. But here's my "out": I don't think anyone else has made it to that point either.

So, since no one has proven that there is an inception moment for the beginning of life after the moment of conception, it doesn't even matter whether it's a little or a lot later than conception. For as long as we don't know better, we should err on the side of life.
 
Allen, you say "we should err on the side of life," but you are not addressing my question. My claim is that biology is not sufficient to establish a legal or ethical principle.

One common philosophical principle says there is no necessary connection between statements based on an "is" and statements based on an "ought."

This idea that life begins at conception is an "is"-statement, whereas the idea that human beings have rights is an "ought"-statement.

I started this discussion to open the question: "When do human rights begin?"

Human rights may or may not begin at the moment of conception, when biological life "begins" (ruling out any "life" that consists in the ovum or sperm; although they are biologically alive too).

I say the question of abortion hinges on the discussion, "when do human rights begin" instead of the question, "when does human life begin."

If someone comingles the issue of human rights with the immortal soul, of course, the argument cannot be separated in the manner I suggest.
 
Joe,

Okay, I'll play it your way, but you've insisted I answer a question neither of us is qualified to answer in the second part.

In the first part, rights are inherent in the life, therefore, rights exist (rather than 'begin') at the beginning of life.

The second part is, life appears to begin at conception, which you seem to allow, but we can't prove that without a better understanding of what life is.

Meanwhile, on the chance that life does begin at conception and the premise that rights are inherent in the life, rights exist at conception.

Therefore, until proof occurs otherwise, we have to operate on the safest assumption, so that if we err, we err in favor of life, and thus in favor of rights.

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I see you say "on the premise rights are inherent in the life . . . ." So you are defining out of the discussion, with a premise, what I was hoping to discuss: the idea that undifferentiated protoplasm might not have human rights until some time farther down the road to development.

Let's see if you also want to define out of the discussion a question based on a different aspect.

Knowledge that a sperm has joined with an ovum is not available at the moment it happens, except in the mind of god, of course.

Within a few days or weeks, however, one person (the host) will begin to suspect something is up, when she misses her period.

As a libertarian, what should she do? As a libertarian, what should anyone else do? On what basis of knowledge would anyone else act?
 
If you're getting bored with this discussion, I can understand. It's been more than a week since I posted the comment above, so let me summarize where I am going and finish the discussion.

First, if you invoke a premise that automatically makes your argument valid, you are doing nothing more than asserting a faith-based dogma. "I am right; you are wrong; 'nuff said."

I operate on a different level: anything can be reasonably discussed, and any premise should be logically defended. I started with a question about "when do human rights begin?"

Human rights, unlike human life, are a necessary legal institution (human life is biological, not a legal detail).

The essence of a right is that other people are obligated to respect it. A right creates a zone of personal sovereignty. So "a right" does not exist by itself, the way in which life does. A right exists because other people are obligated to respect it.

The other question I put to you in my last comment was about knowledge. As a practical matter, if a woman is the only person who believes or suspects she might be carrying a fertilized ovum, and she rids herself of it, the only issue that might involve human rights would be an issue between herself and the fertilized ovum. She could use a chemical like RU-486, for example.

Did she violate any human rights? Where did these "human rights" come from?

I claim that human rights come from a gradual process of "recognition" by other human beings. An analogy might the manner in which a new government acquires international recognition of its sovereignty. If a revolution occurs in some territory and the leaders succeed, they will seek international recognition of their new government as a State among other States in the world community. But sometimes an older government will claim ownership of the territory and try to wipe out the revolution.

My argument is that human rights "are recognized" in a gradual process that follows the development of knowledge, as a practical process of "who knows what, and when."

(1) nobody knows the moment of spem entering ovum.
(2) the woman is first to suspect, or know, she might be pregnant. If she acts immediately to end the pregnancy, no human rights have been violated.
(3) her physician might be next in line, and s/he can choose not to participate; otherwise s/he also does not recognize any human rights in the fertilized ovum.
(4) after a few months, the woman might tell friends; her parents or spouse might get the information when she begins to show. These people are entering into the circle of knowledge, and each one of them will form an opinion that a growing, living entity is inside her. The "recognition" that human rights ought to be associated with the growing human life comes to full completion.

I am personally satisfied with the formula of trimesters Row v. Wade created. Give the woman the first three months from conception to make up her mind. After that time, the wider society starts to enter the picture and laws against murder become relevant.
 
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the belligerent claimant in person
Allen Hacker
animated in the cause of freedom