Well, actually, I’m not sure there is just one (libertarians come in many varieties). But this oped by my old friend Martin Masse explains it about as well as can be.
Libertarianism is not, as many conservatives tend to believe, a relativistic philosophy of “anything goes.” It is, on the contrary, a moral philosophy, based on the principle of non-aggression.
Although a person should be free to do what he or she wants with his own body and property, that has to take place in a social setting where everyone else’s individual rights are being protected, which implies a lot of restrictions on what can be done.
When it comes to abortion, first, there is the basic libertarian question of individual rights, including the right not to be “terminated.” When is the fetus an individual and when does he have these rights? The answer to this question is fundamental.
So where would a libertarian set the threshold? One definition of an individual that can potentially garner the support not only of most libertarians, but of most Canadians, is when the fetus has brain activity and can feel. That’s the same type of debates we are having at the end of life: someone who is brain dead is not considered a living individual anymore and most of us consider it morally acceptable then to end life support.
Second, there is the question of personal responsibility and the government paying for this.
Feminist propaganda tells us that it’s a hard choice for all women going through this experience, and that we should make it as easy as possible for them. But I find it hard to believe that in Quebec for example, 30% of pregnancies (down from 40% in 2002, but up from 5% in 1975) have to end up in abortions.
Why do so many women resort to this procedure, and even use it repeatedly, as if it were a benign form of birth control? Like all other activities that are being subsidized, people tend to find that it’s acceptable to overuse it, no matter the moral aspects involved.
As a libertarian, I would certainly want to put a lot more emphasis on personal responsibility (a basic libertarian principle) in the way we deal with this issue. The end result is that we would likely have a lot fewer abortions, and a much better balance between the competing rights of the unwilling mother and those of the unborn individual who depends on her to survive.