Libertarians cannot defend abortion on property rights grounds, and until they stop getting the abortion analogy wrong, they will continue to use the property rights grounds defence incorrectly. Prof. Block, in a recently-published paper, repeats these wrong analogies, leading him to continue to defend the horrific practice of abortion.
Block uses two analogies – realising the second is wrong, but not the first. He first cites the Violinist’s Kidneys. Suppose you wake up one day in the hospital sewn to a world-class violinist. The violinist’s kidneys were failing, and they sewed yours into the violinist’s system, so that you are both sharing your kidneys. The violinist didn’t request this or perform it; it was done by wicked doctors. The second case is the case of an airplane owner who invites a person onto his plane then, in mid-air, decides to invoke his property rights and pitch the invitee out of the plane.
Both of these analogies fail, and they fail because of the agency of the woman having sex. A woman who has sex (save rape) is consenting to an ejaculate. With that ejaculate comes a risk: a risk of pregnancy. That is, a woman who consents to sex consents to a risk that another person becomes dependent on her. And, if someone cause a person to become dependent, that person must take every reasonable means of preserving the dependent: if I shove a person into deep water, I have to take every measure I can to save that person from drowning. If I cause a person to rely on me and me alone for their life, care, and sustenance, I have to take every reasonable means of preserving that life.
In the violinist’s analogy, the analogy fails because the victim took no action that could put the violinist at risk of becoming dependent on the victim. The agency entirely rests with the doctors. Thus, this analogy fails. The airplane analogy fails, as Block notes, because of the implicit contract.
The correct analogy must acknowledge the woman’s assumption of risk. So, I propose a new one. The USS Enterprise is flying over the surface of the planet. It has a new gadget that performs some task, but as a side effect, it may accidently beam a person on the surface of the planet aboard the ship. Can that person be shoved out the nearest airlock on the captain’s whim? Absolutely not.
The gadget performs some non-beaming function, just as sex may: revenge, pleasure, etc. But just like sex, there is the assumed risk of bringing someone else aboard. Once aboard, of course, the ship is responsible for the welfare of the new passenger until that passenger can be safely off-loaded.
So, what about the health of the mother and rape?
In the health of the mother analogy, the only thing that changes is that, while aboard, the passenger unwillingly and unwittingly threatens the safety of the ship: the person puts off some sort of natural radiation that causes the engines to feedback. The first right of all is self-defense, and the ship’s crew has a right to kill the person or evict them in order to save the ship. In the same way, a person who shoots at you, albeit under mind control, may be killed in order to save yourself.
The rape case is much harder. Someone is unwillingly beamed aboard the ship, through neither the fault of the ship or the new passenger. The new passenger is undesired, and causes distress and embarassment to the ship’s crew, but is causing no harm (say, a Lwaxana Troi episode). Can the ship force the passenger out the nearest airlock? I don’t think so. Why? Because the property rights of the ship’s owner are less than the right to life of the person. People are worth more than property. “Property rights serve human values. They are recognized to that end, and are limited by it.” State v. Shack, 277 A.2d 369, 372 (N.J. 1971).
People will contend that a ship is not a person, and that the person has bodily integrity rights that a ship’s owner does not have. I agree with that, which is why rape is a harder case. But, ultimately, the life of the undesired passenger outweighs the shame and humiliation of the mother. Put another way, rape puts up bodily integrity & stigma vs. life, and the health of the mother puts up life vs. life. Life always wins.
Prof. Block argues that there is no right to life, because that would be a positive right. But abortion is about the ultimate negative right: the right not to be killed. If we are to support liberty, we must support life.
Libertarians cannot be pro-choice.