For my first blog post since discontinuing my daily commentaries on Lao-tzu’s Taoteching I have decided to tackle a very difficult topic to discuss. Abortion. I was inspired to do this because of a dialogue I got involved in on my personal Facebook just last week. Before I get into it, I want to add this caveat: This is a very emotional issue for some. I personally think women confronting an unplanned pregnancy are dealing with a tragic circumstance. And whatever they choose to do about it, it is a heart-wrenching decision that they are having to make.
Now, to begin with, I need to preface with just a little bit about myself. My followers know me as libertariantaoist. And I am a libertarian anarchist, and a philosophical taoist. I want to write this blog from my unique libertariantaoist perspective. However, there are some other things you all need to know about me, as well. I am not a woman. I am a man. Some think that men don’t have any right to speak on this issue, that it is strictly a women’s issue. But it takes two to tango, and being the father of two, now adult children, I think I have as vested an interest in talking about this issue as anyone. My two children, a daughter and a son, they mean everything to me. They were my reason for being for all the years I was raising them. And I did raise them, as a single parent, from their preteen years. I home-schooled them too. But that is enough about me for now, let’s get into the heart of this, shall we?
Abortion. I used to be staunchly pro-life. No abortions, no exceptions. I was involved in my local community, protested outside abortion clinics, hassled state politicians, even traveled to Washington DC, back in January of 1993 for the March for Life on the anniversary of Roe V. Wade. My credentials in the pro-life movement were extensive.
But, unlike some, over time my positions on various things have changed, as my convictions, my belief in the primacy of liberty, have solidified. I don’t have time to go into everything which changed my mind on this issue. I don’t even know if I know them all. But one thing has stuck with me. It was thinking about Patrick Henry saying that he valued liberty over life. That really resonated with me.
Anyway, I began to realize that if we really cared about the life of the unborn, we should be providing more choices to women who found themselves in the tragic circumstances of having an unplanned pregnancy, not fewer. I realized that some of the most vociferous opponents of abortion were also opposed to all forms of birth control. These pro-life people were really anti-choice. And being a libertarian, I couldn’t be anti-choice.
Still, I don’t consider myself pro-abortion. I wouldn’t want abortion to be anyone’s first choice when it comes to family planning. I just can’t reconcile forcing women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term with living in a free society. And I want to live in a free society. And not just free for me, but free for all.
So anyway, for me, the issue is about offering more options to women faced with the prospect of an unplanned pregnancy, not less. What I want more than that abortion is not an option, is that it is not the only option. If women have more choices, ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies from happening in the first place, like fuller access to a plethora of birth control options, and making adoption a more viable option. But, of course, I am not suggesting these things should be paid for by taxation. I don’t think the government needs to be involved in this at all. That would kind of defeat the whole, “we don’t need no stinking government” narrative, wouldn’t it?
And, by the way, I also think men should be made to bear more responsibility in this whole thing. Once again, not by force of government. I am thinking of contractual obligations here. It takes two to tango, as I said earlier. Yet the brunt of the responsibility falls on women when it comes to what to do once she gets pregnant. Women need to have recourse to more options, once again, not less. I am already imagining the men’s rights activists raising heck with me. Perhaps I will have to address men’s rights in another blog post. So hold on there guys, I will get to you later.
You probably have already noticed I have only casually mentioned the life of the unborn in all this. And that is the real issue for a lot of you.
In my discussion with one person on Facebook, he wanted to know two things about my views. Is the fetus a human life, and if it isn’t why shouldn’t abortion be plan A, the first choice, for women facing an unplanned, and unwanted, pregnancy? The second question was when does life begin?
My answer to the first question: One of the reasons I don’t want abortion to be anyone’s first option is because abortions aren’t a simple procedure, and sometimes things go wrong. Horribly wrong. That is why we need to be expanding choice, options, rather than restricting them.
My answer to the second question, on when life begins, was and is, I don’t know. I used to believe the whole “Life begins at conception” narrative. And if you insist on believing that, then nothing I will say will probably ever convince you to moderate your views. It is a convenient belief. It saves you a whole lot of trouble. It is very cut and dried. I understand that. That was one reason I used to believe that way.
But then I spent some time thinking, and reasoning, and I came to realize life isn’t as cut and dried as we would like it to be. It simply is more complicated than that. So now, “I don’t know” will have to work, cause honestly, I don’t know. Somehow, I think viability outside the womb has to be a consideration. And medical technology is coming a long way in that regard.
I want to take a time out here, and consider the taoist side of things. I am libertariantaoist, after all. So what do I think is the taoist viewpoint. I don’t purport to know the official Taoist viewpoint. Or even the viewpoint of a majority of Taoists. There is a reason I choose to always list myself as a “small t” taoist. My viewpoints are my own.
As far as Lao-tzu is concerned, I haven’t the foggiest idea what his stance on when life begins would be. Namely, because I have never read anything purported to be written or said by him, which addressed this issue. I know he loved babies. Newborns were one of his favorite go-to metaphors for practicing the Tao. Second only to water. But he said nothing about babies in utero. That may or may not mean that he believed babies aren’t babies until they are born.
And by the way, “Babies aren’t babies until they are born” is just as convenient a belief as “Life begins at conception, period.” It saves one the trouble of having to think about that growing blob inside its mother. Having said that, “Babies aren’t babies until they are born,” may, in fact, be the best legal definition. Consider the natural rights we are all endowed with “by our Creator.”
When are we endowed with these natural rights? Is it at conception, or while we are still in utero? Or, is it at birth? Whenever I have heard any discussion of natural rights, the answer has always been, at birth. I am no legal scholar, but I think trying to extend natural rights to people before they are born presents us with a Pandora’s box full of troubles we will later regret opening.
Just consider the implications of this reality: According to the American Pregnancy Association, studies reveal that anywhere from 10-25% of clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriage. Notice that is just the clinically recognized pregnancies. What are the legal implications of these “deaths.” Did the baby die of natural causes? Or is someone, perhaps the mother, at fault? Did she faithfully do everything necessary (prenatal care) to ensure the life of her unborn child, whose rights are now to be protected by the government? Who gets to decide exactly what these necessary things are? Are we really going to put women through the agony of a court trial to prove their innocence, when they are already suffering enough because of the miscarriage? Talk of a miscarriage of justice!
Why did I ever decide to tackle this difficult issue? I guess the real reason is because when faced with uncertainty over when life actually begins, and comparing that with the certainty of liberty being infringed upon, I know where I must make my stand.
I understand how emotional the arguments can be on this issue. I have witnessed those emotional arguments countless times, even taking part in them. They often devolved into shouting matches. I hoped I could take a step back from all of that, and present a rational argument, not for abortion, but for more choice, and against any restrictions on liberty.
I wish every baby was a wanted baby. I wish every pregnancy was a joyful circumstance for both the mother, and the father, of the child. But that isn’t the case. And wishing won’t make it so.
I don’t want any woman to ever feel like abortion is her only option, but because I can’t reconcile forcing women to carry their pregnancy to term with living in a free society, I can’t be in favor of banning it, either. In a free society, we should be offering women more choices, not fewer. Placing any restrictions, laws crafted by bureaucrats with all sorts of legal hoops a woman has to jump through before she can get an abortion, are an infringement that I can’t justify; simply because, in a free society individuals, not society, get to decide what is best for themselves.
I am probably rambling by now, so I will end it here. What I am hoping with my blog posts, and not just this one, is to elicit thoughtful discussion. Let me know what you think. What giant gaping holes did I leave in my argument? Do you have the definitive answer to when life begins, and I am just too stupid to see it? Any other concerns? If there is enough feedback from my followers, perhaps I could continue this discussion with some dialogue from those who wish to be part of the discussion. If not, I will move on to something else. Thanks for reading through this. I hope it was thought-provoking. Have a great day!