Abortion is not Immoral
Libertarians are obviously quite split on the issue of abortion, but something I’ve noticed is even with many libertarians on the pro-choice side of the issue there’s this tepid support that’s often qualified with things like personal disagreement, or calling it a necessary evil, or the least bad option, etc. Almost as if there’s a sense of guilt for supporting the freedom to terminate a pregnancy. So rather than discuss the legality of it or the government’s role in it, I though it was worth having a discussion on the actual personal morality of it for those who support it legally.
I think one of the most important factors when considering morality is the harm an action causes. If nobody was harmed by an action, is that action immoral? When I apply that question to abortion, I have to wonder what “harm” actually is. There’s the textbook definition of harm, which is any physical or mental damage, which certainly applies to abortion. But if there’s no capability to experience that harm, is it significant?
We kind of see that same thinking with how we generally approach interactions with other living things. Plants can’t experience anything, so nobody has an issue with harming a plant (generally). Insects are kind of in a weird space where maybe the experience harm in some way, but not in the same way that we do, almost purely reflexive. Most people don’t have a problem killing insects, but I think we see more people feel a little bad about it. Some people will kill a bug while others will try to release it somewhere else. Then we have things like lobsters where we’re unsure enough to debate on the morality of boiling them. Then we move on to fish, reptiles, birds, and eventually mammals, and we see the same trend that as a living thing is able to experience more similarly to humans, the morality of mistreatment becomes more and more important. I think the driving force behind that is the capability of the living thing to experience and process harm in a way we can more readily understand.
So bringing it back to the morality of abortion, if a fetus has no capacity to experience, either physically or emotionally, can I truly say it was harmed if destroyed? In regards to fetal pain, the general consensus is that the fetus lacks the capacity to experience pain until about 24 weeks.
So lets isolate the situation for a moment. If we remove all third parties and consider only the mother and the fetus, can the fetus which is incapable of experiencing pain really be harmed? If the mother aborts the fetus in secret, has anyone experienced actual pain or distress? Conversely, if the mother is forced to carry the fetus to term and give birth against her will, as someone capable of experience, has she not experienced pain and distress?
If the options are forcing pain and distress on the mother or aborting a fetus incapable of experiencing pain and distress, how is the former the moral position? Why is there this unease about supporting the least harmful (potentially harmless) option?
Admittedly, there’s some callousness to this reasoning, and it can be applied to some other things like the deceased and the brain dead, but I just wanted to get some thoughts out there to start the discussion.
I also want to add a disclaimer that this is far from the only moral argument for abortion, and by no means should this be considered a requirement for a morally justified abortion. It also shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as an argument that the abortion of a fetus capable of experiencing pain is inherently immoral.
Article from r/Libertarian: For a Free Society