Wednesday, May 14, 2008

For Libertarians on Abortion

May 14, 2008

This is to all Libertarians (and everyone else who wonders where the LP stands on the issue):

Anybody who knows anything about human biology will be able to explain the biological differences between a zygote, fetus, and baby. When those scientific terms get blurred, distorted, and falsely rewritten is usually when emotional and theological responses and reactions get involved. Hence the abortion debate and all of its connotations and emotional high-stress. That's not denigrating anyone, folks, just telling it like it is.

Me, personally, as a father of two kids, and having had to go through the personal hell and grief of burying one of them, I can appreciate the emotion on both sides, which boils down to whether one thinks personally a zygote/fetus/baby is wanted or desired, or in some cases, can survive.

The ultimate question of when does a group of cells become that which we call a human life, with the human, constitutional, and civil rights that come with that life? Answers will vary, and it boils down to when we *think* it happens, since we really don’t know.

Some say when all the building blocks are present, some say when "it" (for lack of any better term) exhibits human physical characteristics, some say when "it" exhibits human behaviors, some say at the point of survivability outside the mother. Others say (and I agree) that it’s when the spirit or soul enters the body, in the same way that death is when it leaves. When that happens is anybody’s guess. I’ll guess the quickening.

The government has no real idea. So it chose a temporal point, birth, as an arbitrary answer for its one-size-fits-all legal purposes of protecting rights and regulating behaviors (not commenting on the legitimacy of that, just that it is done). The whole political debate is over that arbitrary answer and whether it should be changed to earlier than the birth point.

Governments, for better or worse, use temporal points like birth and other ages. That’s not going to change anytime soon, at least not until Doc Brown shows up in his steam engine.

Personally, to answer the question I asked three paragraphs above, I think it’s some combination of the exhibiting of human characteristics, human behaviors, and survivability. And that varies from case to case. One size doesn’t fit all (which is where government generally fails!).

In my (and my wife’s) case, we lost a son at 38 weeks in utero. Two weeks from delivery. Kicking up a storm and then just stopped. Heart stopped beating, nobody knows why, but it did. Did he have all of the building blocks? Yes. Did he exhibit human physical characteristics? Since I held his body after the induced labor (and bawled my eyes out, I’m not ashamed to admit), I can say emphatically “Hell, yeah!” Did he exhibit human behaviors? Ask my wife about her sore ribs from the soccer games he was playing in there. To me, when I placed my hand on her belly and felt that kicking, it was utterly mind-blowing. At that point in the pregnancy, it was real to me, not just my wife getting big in the belly. So, yeah, he did as far as I'm concerned. Was he survivable outside the mother? At that point I would say yes, and had the OB not blown off an ultrasound (which might have caught something) he very well could have. We’ll never know, but considering that he was two weeks to term, and our second son was born nine days from term, and he’s just fine, most likely the answer is yes.

Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, the point is that to us, Will was biologically and legally a fetus, but emotionally to his parents a baby and our child. We wanted him, we were ready for him (sort of, but at the time we were just naïve enough to think that), and his loss broke our hearts. Others may not feel that way when they lose theirs, either by choice or not. But with abortion, it all comes back to it being a personal choice and dealing with the consequences and aftereffects of that choice. As Libertarians, we cannot deny the parent the right to deal with that if they so choose. We agree that government should stay out of the abortion action, either by regulation or payment.

So, yes, the LP should stay neutral on abortion while acknowledging that government should not be involved in an oh-so personal and emotional decision. That puts the emphasis back on individual rights and responsibilities, while respecting the law as it now stands. Should the law change, then that can be dealt with, but for now, neutrality is the best answer, since the LP focus deals with government policy and law, and while the emotion behind it is there, it should not be the driving force in the issue.

The issue of when a human life begins will not be resolved here or anytime soon, and neutrality on the issue acknowledges that as well. Frankly, until a human spirit or soul, or whatever one wants to call that essence that makes the sum of the parts a whole, however it happens, that thing that makes us what we call “human” instead of a mass of cells working in unison by biological accident, until that can be empirically detected and measured, we will never know.

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