Resolving the Debate on Libertarianism and Abortion

Libertarian Papers 8:267-272 (2016)
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I take issue with the view that libertarian theory does not imply any particular stand on abortion. Liberty is the absence of interference with people’s wills—interests, wishes, and desires. Only entities that have such are eligible for the direct rights of libertarian theory. Foetuses do not; and if aborted, there is then no future person whose rights are violated. Hence the “liberal” view of abortion: women (especially) may decide whether to bear the children they have conceived. Birth is a good dividing line between the freedom to abort and the point at which society is permitted to take an interest. Once born, children detach from their mothers; no invasion of their bodies is necessary to separate them. Yet some ways of bringing them up can have a negative impact on society. There is a thus legitimate interest in protecting ourselves from the results of truly bad parenting.

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Jan Narveson
University of Waterloo


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