To justify their support for abortion, many small-government advocates cite their desire to see the state’s influence in our lives decrease. For example, the Libertarian Party platform on abortion says “government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.” However, this position is irreconcilable with the philosophy of liberty. To begin deriving why, we first must understand the ideological foundation for our rights.
There are two, and only two, possible sources of our freedoms. Either they come from the state’s generosity, in which case the state can rightfully confiscate them, or they are naturally assigned to each of us through being human, in which case they are inalienable and cannot rightfully be confiscated by the state. America’s founders were among the first in human history to acknowledge the latter as the source of our freedoms and implement that revolutionary idea into law.
It Starts with Unalienable Rights
The implications of this philosophical development are far-reaching. It not only means that government cannot rightfully deprive us of certain liberties, but also that it cannot treat individuals differently. Because we are equal in the eyes of our Creator, we must then be equal in the eyes of the law. The rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, those rights listed in the Bill of Rights, and the rest of the unenumerated rights are guaranteed to all of us equally. The government does not have the authority to give these rights to some while withholding them from others.
If our rights are inalienable, that means the role of government is to protect those rights. Once the concept of inalienable rights is accepted, government becomes a project we all share to ensure each person’s rights and freedoms are upheld. If any of these rights are withheld from any of us, government is obliged to step in and restore those rights to that individual.
However, abortion supporters uphold a different foundation for the endowment of rights. They used to argue that a preborn child was not a human person, but science has proven that objectively false, so they have been forced to apply a different argument. To them, the rights to life and liberty aren’t inalienable. These rights are assigned to each of us by our mother, father, grandparents, abortionist, or anyone else who has influence in the decision to abort or not abort us. Because those people assign those rights to us, they can rightfully deprive us of the right to life and liberty.
This fundamental difference is a direct threat to liberty because it is attempting to shift the foundation of where our rights come from. Abortion undermines the very principle of inalienable rights, which should scare all lovers of liberty, along with anyone who claims to be an advocate of human rights.
Each Individual Has Rights
No one owns anyone else. Not if you conquered them, not if you bought them, and not if they currently reside in your body. None of us are God. None of us gets to assign or withhold the inalienable rights to life and liberty from anyone else who is scientifically human. This aspect of libertarianism is crucial to the consistency of all libertarian thought. (The only exception to the absolute nature of these rights is self-defense. One can take a life if it is for the purpose of protecting oneself or someone else from imminent danger.)
It’s no secret that libertarians, conservatives, and all kinds of small-government advocates are losing the battle for the soul of the country. The expansion of government seems unstoppable, and those who speak out against progressives are mercilessly harassed. If we’re going to regain ground, we can’t be content to fight petty battles as the entire rug is swept out beneath us. We must restore the foundation of the concept of inalienable rights. If a government dictates who gets the right to life and who doesn’t, it does so from an ideological foundation of state-assigned rights. This ideology is an existential threat to liberty.
Conservatism, and especially libertarianism, comes from the idea that rights are natural consequences of human existence. As Ron Paul put it, “Everybody has an absolute equal right as an individual, and it comes to them naturally.” If we cede to the Left, including left-leaning “libertarians,” the idea that our rights aren’t naturally endowed, that rights are assigned to us from the generosity of our rulers, we will have lost the philosophical foundation for the entire spectrum of limited government ideology.
If we don’t fight to restore this foundation of our rights, government growth is inevitable and, detached from any philosophical anchor, puts us squarely on the road to serfdom. Whether libertarians like it or not, fighting for the philosophical foundation of liberty necessarily includes fighting for the right to life of the unborn.