Libertarians and voluntaryists are split on the issue of abortion being murder: some claim that it violates the rights of the unborn human being; others — that a woman has the absolute right of self-ownership over her body. In the analysis of this issue we shall reference the work of Murray N. Rothbard “The Ethics of Liberty” to address the arguments of principled antiabortionists.
“Abortion is murder because a fetus is a potential human being”
Murray Rothbard on this point:
The proper groundwork for analysis of abortion is in every man’s absolute right of self-ownership. This implies immediately that every woman has the absolute right to her own body, that she has absolute dominion over her body and everything within it. This includes the fetus. Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to this situation, but the fetus is there by the mother’s freely-granted consent. But should the mother decide that she does not want the fetus there any longer, then the fetus becomes a parasitic “invader” of her person, and the mother has the perfect right to expel this invader from her domain. Abortion should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body.
“Abortion is murder because a fetus is a living human being and has full rights of human beings”
Even if we concede this point, abortion is not murder, because what human being has a right to be a coercive parasite inside the body of an unwilling host? No adult human being has this right, therefore no fetus has this right either.
“Abortion is murder because the mother has entered into a contract with the fetus”
Murray Rothbard responds with this:
There are many problems with this doctrine, however. In the first place, as we shall see further below, a mere promise is not an enforceable contract: contracts are only properly enforceable if their violation involves implicit theft, and clearly no such consideration can apply here. Secondly, there is obviously no “contract” here, since the fetus (fertilized ovum?) can hardly be considered a voluntarily and consciously contracting entity. And thirdly, as we have seen above, a crucial point in libertarian theory is the inalienability of the will, and therefore the impermissibility of enforcing voluntary slave contracts. Even if this had been a “contract,” then, it could not be enforced because a mother’s will is inalienable, and she cannot legitimately be enslaved into carrying and having a baby against her will.
Indeed, how can one enter into a contract with an entity that cannot reason or does not even have a nervous system yet? Or should we consider every promise to be an enforceable contract? The notion of such a contract is absolutely absurd.
“Abortion is murder because a fetus has a right to life”
The notion of “a right to life” would imply that one is a criminal if he or she doesn’t feed a starving person, for example, effectively making him or her a slave of the starving person. Thus, such a right does not exist. The only acceptable interpretation of this concept is included in the right of self-ownership.
“Abortion is murder because an owner of a plane cannot just demand for his passenger to exit mid-flight”
This argument also presupposes that there is a contract between the mother and the fetus and we have addressed this point, therefore it’s also invalid.
There is no rational basis to claim that abortion is murder. That does not mean that I condone abortion, but only that I do not consider it a crime.