The Pro-Choice Libertarians group was founded in 1987 in reaction to anti-abortionist former Republican Party congressional representative Ron Paul's announcement he was running for the Libertarian Party nomination for president in the 1988 race. Pro-choice libertarian party members recruited American Indian activist Russell Means to run against him. Abortion was the primary issue covered by mainstream media at the beginning of the convention.
Since that time members have organized mostly before conventions when they believed the Libertarian Party's plank stating the government should keep out of the abortion issue might be removed. The group created a website in 2002 and a Facebook presence in 2016.
The group details various libertarians' defenses of the right to reproductive rights and abortion, grouped under four basic libertarian principles: individual liberty, self-ownership, self-determination and limited government. The group notes that while many libertarians describe themselves as “pro-life” on the abortion issue, most do not want government regulating or prohibiting abortion. Those who want laws against abortion are considered "abortion prohibitionists."
The Libertarian Party's platform historically made a detailed case for women's reproductive rights. Since 2008 an "abortion" plank has read: "Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”
The Libertarian case for reproductive rights and abortion
While individual libertarians may give different weight to principles of individual liberty, self-ownership, self-determination and limited government in formulating their views on reproductive rights and abortion, most generally agree:
- While the sperm, egg and fetus may be alive, they are not persons with rights; rights come into existance only after birth when a child becomes self-conscious, capable of cognition and able to engage in purposeful action to affect their environment.
- Except for medical necessity, most abortions would occur within the first 3-10 weeks of conception, were it not for state and federal laws and regulations making it increasingly difficult and costly for men and women to buy contraceptives or to obtain abortions until much later in pregnancy. Public school and other discouragement of sex education increases the number of teenage pregnancies.
- Many libertarians use the analogy of the fetus as a trespasser, a “stowaway” or even a parasite. The woman has a right to eject the unwanted intruder from her property, i.e., her body, in order to preserve her own life and liberty. This is true even if the fetus initially was “invited” but then becomes an “unwelcome guest.”
- Self-determination means individuals cannot be forced to abide by an onerous contract that makes them a defacto “slave”. This includes any alleged “contract” with a fetus, a being incapable of making a contract.
- Libertarians believe that most government laws and regulations have negative unintended consequences, especially when government is prohibiting something that people demand, like contraception and abortion. Abortion restrictions increase “late term” abortions, creates a black market in abortions which often result in injury and even death of the women, victims of incest or rape are forced to give birth, doctors and women are prosecuted for abortion-related “crimes”-and even natural abortions-by ambitious or fanatical prosecutors. Abortion laws and regulations, like most others, will only multiply, expand their scope and increase their penalties.
Pro-Choice Libertarians Mission Statement
The Pro-Choice Libertarians mission statement includes several sections:
- Strategic Emphasis: targeting government laws and regulations against abortion; opposition to "state's rights" arguments regarding abortion and other individual rights; opposing abortion prohibitionist arguments brought to Libertarian Party by former Republican Party activists
- Strategy regarding the Republican Party: Expose Republican cynical and dishonest manipulation of the abortion issue in order to organize and mobilize a manufactured constituency and its captive vote; decry Republican regulations and laws and the kind of rhetoric that has led to years of violence against abortion providers; oppose “libertarian-republican pivot” candidates and members who promote abortion prohibitionism in the Libertarian Party, even as they intend to pivot back to the Republican Party.
- Strategy regarding the Libertarian Party: defend the abortion platform plank regarding keeping the government out of the issue; change name of plank to "Reproductive rights and abortion" to make it clear the party does support contraception; remove language included to pacify prohibitionists and strengthen the plank; encourage state parties to include strong reproductive rights and abortion planks; increase awareness of the questionable and even unlibertarian motivations of some abortion prohibitionists who enter the party.
- Strategy regarding the media and public: clarifying difference between being "pro-life" and an "abortion prohibitionist"; expose Republican Party hypocrisy and mendacity; psycho-social-political analysis of why men and women become abortion prohibitionists; promote awareness of unintended – and even intended – consequences of regulating and prohibiting abortion, including that of increasing the size of government and the burden on tax payers.
- Pro-Choice Libertarians website, Our History page.
- Susan Gilmore, "Abortion most debatable issue on even of Libertarian convention", Seattle Times, September 2, 1987.
- Wallace Turner, "Major Libertarian Candidate Opposes Party Stand on Abortion", New York Times, September 4, 1987.
- Pro-Choice Libertarians website, Principles page.
- Pro-Choice Libertarians website, Mission Statement page.
- Scott Keeter, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, and Gregory A. Smith, Search of Ideologues in America, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, April 10, 2006. Quote: "Similarly, 57% of conservatives and 56% of populists think there should be more restrictions on abortion, compared with only 25% of libertarians and just 12% of liberals.
- Daniel Cox, Ph.D., Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., In Search of Libertarians in America, Public Religion Research Institute, October 29, 2013. Quote: Nearly 6-in-10 (57%) libertarians oppose making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, a proportion identical to the general population.
- Libertarian Party 2016 platform at party website.
- Pro-Choice Libertarians website, History of Abortion in the Libertarian Party Platform page.
- Libertarians Stance on Issues
- Libertarians for Life
- Pro-Choice on Everything
- Party platforms 1974-2016
- Sharon Presley and Robert Cooke, [http://www.alf.org/abortion.php "The Right to an Abortion: The Libertarian Defense", Association of Libertarian Feminists website.
- Wendy McElroy, “Abortion”, WendyMcElroy.com website.
- Harry Browne, The Libertarian Stand on Abortion], HarryBrowne.org website, 1998.
- Anonymous, The Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Libertarian, BeingLibertrian.com website, 2016.
- Richard Illyes, When the Dog Catches the Car (unintended consequeces of outlawing abortion), BeingLibertrian.com website, 2017.