The Principled Compromise on Abortion

Reading Attack the System’s post on the libertarian split on the issue of abortion[1], I was sad to see that they didn’t mention the ‘third’ stance. Many people say that one can either be pro-life or pro-choice, and that’s that. But there exists another position: you can be evictionist.  And this alternative stance is the best way of consistently adhering to libertarian principle.

So let’s outline the two mainstream stances – prolife first. To be ‘Pro-Life’ is to say that the foetus has a right to life and that this right to live must also give the foetus ownership of the womb. The ProLifers have numerous ways of justifying this, one being that there really was an implicit contract between the mother and the foetus and the mother must honour it by not aborting. However, for a contract, there must be at least two consenting parties – a foetus can’t even recognise the concept of an implicit contract, let alone enter into one. So, the ‘implicit’ part is only on the part of the pro-lifers who are implying that the mother has no rights to defend. Therefore, it is a violation of nobody’s rights to simply force the mother to keep something inside her – which she doesn’t want - for nine months. How is this libertarian? It isn’t.

The Prochoice position, though, is just as bad. It is definitely more libertarian – or potentially more libertarian, if implemented in a certain way – to recognise the woman’s ownership of her body, but the extreme to which this is taken can mean that it can be just as bad as the prolife stance. The prochoice theory states that a woman can have an abortion whenever she likes. Here, the woman’s rights are recognised, but what of the child? Let’s take the example of the abomination that is ‘partial-birth abortion’. In this rather disgusting method, a nine month old foetus’ brains are sucked out and the baby is killed when it has something like a one hundred percent chance of being perfectly viable. How is this libertarian? Nope, it still isn’t.

Evictionism: evict, but don’t kill. It’s as simple as that. Now, there are going to be cases where there will need to be a trade off, but this can be done in a way that satisfies body-ownership and property rights. The assumptions behind the evictionism theory are that: the woman owns the uterus; the foetus has the same rights to life as the woman.

How do we respect both parties’ rights? Well, evictionists say that a woman can only abort a foetus if it is not viable outside the womb. As medical science progresses, the viability of a foetus will be achieved earlier and earlier, meaning that at the moment we evictionists are mainly pro-choice whereas in the future we’ll be mainly pro-life. Does this theory satisfy libertarian principles? Yes. We say that the woman can remove anything from her body – it’s her body. We also say that the foetus has a right to life, and so – if viable – ought not to be aborted.[2] This means that we can justify allowing abortions up until about the sixth month, or a little later.

Just to clarify, this stance has received a lot of criticism – from the prolife movement. One response I can recall to Walter Block’s article outlining evictionism was the exposition of a new theory, ‘departurism’. It states that, basically, we should let the foetus leave the womb ‘naturally’ simply because you wouldn’t push someone out of a plane even if you owned it, as the woman owns her womb. I’m increasingly of the opinion that flawed theories rely on such analogies more than sound ones…

Anyway, my explanation of evictionism is going to be poor compared to Dr. Walter Block’s and so, if you’re interested in protecting the rights of the foetus and of the mother, please read some of his papers on the subject.

[2] Here, abortion is defined as the murder of a fetus in order to remove it from the womb.

  • Chrissed by Fire

    Evictionism isn’t really that much of a compromise though - true evictionism means that the woman can remove the fetus at any time with absolutely no obligation to sustain life, even after the sixth month/viability. That means that it would die anyway, unless a charity took it in. Removal of the fetus - in a manner that doesn’t actively kill it, but would passively nonetheless - would never, ever be prohibited under evictionism. And I support it myself but it’s never going to win over the pro-life brigade.

    • Keir Martland

      And the mother does have an obligation to notify a charity, if she doesn’t then that is essentially ‘forestalling’ just as owning land in a donut/analus shape is forestalling. So, this isn’t really a ‘positive’ obligation, it is just the negative obligation not to prevent others from caring for the foetus.

      And yes, I suppose evictionism is for people who are pro-life ‘at heart’, but who don’t want to violate the rights of women.

      • Chrissed by Fire

        I’m definitely pro-choice at heart, have been all my life. I personally don’t believe a fetus is a ‘life’ in any meaningful sense but I think that’s completely irrelevant to the argument; evictionism is a far superior and less subjective justification.

  • Liars Never Win

    I agree with this but it’s not 6 months when the fetus is viable, it’s closer to 20-24 weeks.

  • AnCap084

    What about the pro-lifers who adhere to the non-aggression principle? Any “contact” becomes a non-issue. The real issue is the illegitimate use of force against another living human being.