The issue of abortion is one that is constantly brought up and debated about at length within libertarian circles. It is often if not almost always approached as a black and white issue which in my view understandably creates tension and conclusions which cause their own problems. It's time to understand and consider a different approach to this altogether.
There is a common Rothbardian argument with respect to abortion. To the mother (the right and proper owner of her private property, her body), the baby *is* an intruder, a 'parasite', a 'freeloader', a 'thief', whatever - *if she deems it*. This is necessarily, tautologically true. It comes down to her perception of the relationship and desire of the nature of that relationship between her and the baby.
With that being said, she doesn't have any more 'right' to kill the baby because of this fact than a shop owner has the right to run a small girl down in a hail of gunfire because she stole a candy bar, some groceries, what have you.
This is due to the concept in libertarian justice of 'proportionality', and is Rothbard's *own argument* (which I think is proper). This, interestingly enough, flies in the face and contradicts Rothbard's argument *in favor of* the 'right' for a woman to abort and kill a fetus as a parasite if it is deemed so.
If/when the baby has its own brain activity is when I think is the safest and most accurate bet of when you can deem it a human with 'rights' (merely blood being pumped around is not enough, as much of your body's cells has this but these parts can hardly be deemed its own 'human' with 'rights'). In the early part of the first trimester (up to 6 or 8 weeks), it is really just a clump of cells, no different from scratching your arm - and it would be silly to claim a mere clump of cells with no heartbeat and brain activity has 'rights' - and the implications of such a claim should be obvious enough. Any abortion *that results in the death* of a baby after this stage *is murder* based simply on some slippery slope considerations that should be obvious enough if one is able to logically see more than a few inches in front of their face.
Now, *with that being said*, I still think taking the consequentialist approach to the question of abortion is the best consideration. Yes, abortion *after this stage* is *murder*. Yes, I (personally) find it absolutely, morally repugnant. NO - I do not think it should be 'outlawed', as it is a 'cure' even worse than the disease. Prohibition is the same no matter what you prohibit that there is a demand for - just like drugs, prostitution, alcohol, immigration, gambling, whatever... you will not wipe out the demand, only the supply. Wiping out the legal supply simply results in a black market for abortions. Underground abortions, which are backed and propped up by criminals. More criminals. No legal recourse for those getting or planning on getting an abortion or wronged in some way. Low-quality, particularly dangerous, unclean, unskilled abortions, coat-hanger abortions, etc. The list goes on and on.
The problem is that it is a cultural issue - an issue of moral degradation, which *cannot* be solved by law. The best answer we have for this problem are social pressures like social and commercial ostracism (shaming), the hope that the culture will improve and that ostracism will become a strong enough cultural force to discourage this, and that we continue to push technology to improve (via the market, again, *not* the State) in order to make abortion that results in the death of the baby a less desirable and more unnecessary option .
One thing to consider would be to legalize and openly allow the mother of an unwanted pregnancy to sell the rights to their unborn baby to one of the *many* potential parents (demand for adoption is extraordinarily high with the supply being extraordinarily low - this is one of a number of reasons as to why adoptive parents go overseas to adopt a child, along with the insanely long waiting times, bureaucratic process, etc) who have the love, desire and resources to give an otherwise aborted or resented child a good home to grow up in. The selling of these rights (the mother is not 'selling her child', she is agreeing, for a fee, to not contest the parental rights of the adoptive parents) would certainly encourage the otherwise careless mother who does not want the child to do her best to care for her body and baby and make the best decisions possible, as stipulations of the contract in which she'd be agreeing to negotiate the best possible payment, or payment at all.
Another thing to consider is the concept of 'eviction' as opposed to the common practice of abortion which almost always results in the purposeful death of the baby. 'Eviction' is a much more 'just' option than abortion, and absolutely follows the concept of 'proportionality' as mentioned above, with respect to the mother wanting to remove who she considers to be a trespasser on her private property (her body). With 'eviction', charitable resources and/or the desire of potential parents (at this moment in time, probably more wealthy parents due to the costs involved) to adopt the child, technology is improving to the point where a fetus can survive outside of the womb earlier and earlier (I believe at this moment in time the earliest case is around a life of 20 weeks with the help of NICU with a *very* high chance of survival 28 weeks and beyond). While this may be an option for certain situations, factors of self interest (mentioned above, such as cost) on all parties involved would highly encourage the would-be 'body-mother' to instead carry the fetus to full-term and give birth to a health baby for the adoptive parents.
The 'issue' of abortion is indeed a difficult one for libertarians who hold consistently to private property rights as well as concepts of self-ownership. Libertarians and small-l 'libertarians' are very divided on this issue and many attempts at solving the problem logically often abound, ranging from trying to use inaccurate and inapplicable lifeboat scenarios to argue in favor of outlawing abortion, to simply claiming the extreme propertarian position of being in favor of abortion - the slippery slope of which ultimately advocates a horribly dystopian vision of what such a 'libertarian' society might look like, along with other logical implications that include the 'right' to abort a baby to death at 8 months, as well as having the 'right' to kill anyone who trips and falls on your lawn.
While I will not be so pretentious to claim I have 'closed the book' on the question of abortion, I think taking some black or white position of completely outlawing abortion vs absolutely allowing abortion due to private property rights is not appropriate, and a different approach is needed. This may be it. Small-l 'libertarianism' (and I acknowledge that 'libertarianism' is at least slightly a nebulous concept) seems to have the right answers to the vast majority of questions about social interaction, the economy and governance - and most of the answers can be addressed via a black and white consideration. The legalistic and clearly-defined property rights approach of libertarianism makes it often very easy to accomplish this. Unfortunately, this is not one of those situations, and these types of situations are not within the realm of 'the law' to try to 'fix'.
Of course, any culture that values life and particularly the life *of their own children* so little as to openly and proudly proclaim the 'right' and willingness to end it so indifferently is of course going to be one that is naturally so casual and detached about statism and the corruption, waste, destruction and death that it imposes on complete strangers locally and abroad.
With most problems of statism, like abortion - the issue is ultimately cultural. We will never see the parasitic disease of statism even remotely considered by the masses (which, unfortunately is needed to achieve statelessness) as long as something like abortion is treated so nonchalantly.
As a side note, I often use images to assist on conveying points and concepts in my articles. I have elected to pass on this subject because of its nature. Honestly, you really must simply utilize 'Google images' and search for 'abortion'.
This is not merely some 'appeal to emotion' any more than trying to show someone who advocates murdering and tearing apart children look at images of children torn apart is 'merely an appeal to emotion'. I oftentimes don't think people really understand or realize what it is they are *actually* advocating that other mothers do or that they themselves do to their children, that people detach themselves from their arguments.
PS - I must add one final thing, something more personal and a bit unconventional for something like this. If you are unconcerned with personal experiences, feel free to move on without continuing. Otherwise, I have included it as the first comment (RPF does not allow more than 10,000 characters in their articles).
My hope is that it is not only cathartic for myself, but that perhaps I can use it at least somewhat 'productively' in that it might help people reconsider things.
Many years ago I and the person I was with at the time had an abortion in the mid to late first trimester. I did not fully realize what it was we were doing or asking to have done, until it was too late and the act was finished. After it was clear what had just taken place - that I had just killed the existence of what would have been a perfectly healthy child, my own child, someone who was a part of me and that I was a part of, I became utterly sick to my stomach and had to rush to the bathroom in the hospital where I vomited over and over again. I came out and tried to act as if nothing was wrong. As we started to walk out to leave, nurses on the way out said I 'looked green' and asked if I was okay, but I started to faint and collapsed on the ground. As we finally left, I came to the full realization of what we had just done and it made me mentally and physically utterly sick to my core. To this day I am haunted by that event and what we had done. It is a regret that I will live with for my entire life, and it leaves part of me permanently empty with a dark, painful void that can never be filled.
But it doesn't end there. What would this person have been like? It may sound cliche, but genuinely speaking -- what smiles and laughs have I missed? What lifetime of experience for myself and this person did my decision result in cutting short? I have a healthy, beautiful daughter, now. I love her more than anything in this world and she gives special meaning to my existence. But I still horribly regret that past decision. If we did not do what we did, my daughter would not be here nor would I be with the person who has made me unbelievably happy and who has given me this child. On top of this incurable pain and being haunted by that event, my happy life has now been put into a sort of existential question and I am left in an extremely awkward position behind the happiness and completeness of what is my life today vs the horrible decision and experience that was the pathway towards my current life.
I deserve all of this and would have none of this pain or regret removed -- even if I could. I will hold on to that pain because it's all that I have for my unborn child and his or her existence and experience that I directly contributed to snuffing out. It is something I must endure, or else I would be diminishing the gravity of the choices I have made and the consequences I must now live with.
For anyone thinking about aborting what would end up being a perfectly healthy child or encourages others to consider it as an option, please -- please, reconsider.
(This post was originally published under my old pseudonym, 'Sentient Void', at the Ron Paul Forums, on 08-01-2013)