Bill Vallicella, who blogs as the Maverick Philosopher and often argues for conservative political and social positions, asks a provocative question:
If you are a pacifist, why aren’t you also pro-life? If you oppose the killing of human beings, how can you not oppose the killing of defenseless human beings, innocent human beings?
You call yourself a liberal. You pride yourself on ‘speaking truth to power’ and for defending the weak and disadvantaged. Well, how much power do the unborn wield?
I am a liberal and a pacifist, and I know this is a serious question, so I’d like to answer. Then I’d like to ask the Maverick Philosopher (and anyone else who would like to respond) a serious question in return.
As a pacifist (and, more simply, as a human being) I care about all living things, and this care does extend to the unborn. I feel that every abortion is tragic, and I have never advocated abortion as a personal choice.
But, being pro-choice and being pro-abortion are completely different things. I am not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice. I know that many sane and reasonable women have chosen abortion and will continue to choose abortion (whether it is legal or not). Whether or not I would make the same choice in their position, I cannot support a law that takes away their right to make this decision, even though the decision differs from the decision I would make.
Is there a correspondence between being pro-choice and making a choice to have an abortion? I suspect that there isn’t. A list of abortion statistics by U.S. state shows that there are lots of abortions in so-called “red states” like Kansas and Texas, just as there are in “blue states” like New York and Massachusetts. I bet that many women who profess to be pro-life have abortions, and I know there are many women who are fervently pro-choice who would never choose abortion for themselves. Bill Vallicella may be correct that a pacifist will recoil at the idea of abortion — but he is wrong to imply that this has anything to do with the political controversy regarding the legality of abortion.
I hope this answers the Maverick Philosopher’s question, and here’s my question back: how can you claim to be a libertarian, and yet want the government to outlaw abortion?
If you don’t believe it the government’s place to manage anyone’s economy, health care or education, how can it be the government’s place to intrude on one of the most deeply personal and difficult decisions a woman or a woman’s family has to make? If you’re a libertarian, don’t you want to reduce the government’s power to intrude into private life? You can’t be a libertarian and not be pro-choice — the combination of the two would be an oxymoron.
This is why presidential candidate Herman Cain got himself all tangled up in a much-publicized TV interview this week. He first claimed to absolutely support the Republican platform on abortion, but reversed this a few sentences later: “The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to a social decision that they need to make.”
He has spent the days since this confusing interview trying to clarify an unclarifiable position. In fact, Herman Cain appears to be a true libertarian and not a true advocate of laws against abortion. You can’t have it both ways. If the Maverick Philosopher or anybody else thinks it’s possible to be so against big government as to not even empower the government to regulate health insurance (a big part of Obamacare) yet to support the government’s right to intrude on a woman’s ability to make a decision that many women currently make, I’d really like to hear the rationale. I think it’s an obvious fact that anybody who wants a government — federal, state, any government — to outlaw abortion is not a libertarian at all.
UPDATE: Bill Vallicella has responded to this post (and, most importantly, clarifies in his response that he is not actually a libertarian). I plan to write more about this soon.