Monday, September 1, 2008

Defending the Undefendable: A Response to Dr. Walter Block

I recently finished Professor Walter Block's excellent book,"Defending the Undefendable." I highly recommend this book, as it is a wonderful, and delightfully unconventional, study of free-market economics. It is a must-read for proponents of a free market!

After reading it, the only part of the book that I did not agree with was the defense of abortion. To further understand his point in greater detail, I read a law journal article written by Dr. Block that defends abortion on the gounds that it is as an "eviction" from a woman's private porperty (her womb). What follows were my comments to Professor Block on the idea that abortion is an "eviction," and does not violate the non-aggression axiom:

In an effort to keep the discussion moving, I will address a few of your points in the Appalachian Journal of Law.

I certainly agree with you that human life starts at conception. For me, with the application of the non-aggression axiom, the case stops here. The fetus is a human worthy of protection under the axiom, thus abortion is violence initiated against it. Period, case closed. However, since you take the case further with the ideas of trespassing and eviction, I will go further as well.

At the outset of my response let me be perfectly clear that I agree with you that the womb is the private property of the woman and cannot be violated by any trespasser. Where I do not agree with you is the idea that the fetus is a trespasser. A trespasser, by definition ( is one who “makes an unwarranted or uninvited incursion.” A trespasser must possess the ability to make a conscious choice to make the incursion, as well as the physical ability to act on that decision (Basic Misesian Praxeology). If the fetus were a trespasser, it would have had to have made its way into the womb on its own recognizance as a direct result of its decision to do so. Since this in impossible, I absolutely dismiss the idea that the fetus is a trespasser. I will also say that the fetus’s presence in the womb is not without warrant or invitation. The woman, assuming the sexual intercourse is voluntary, “lets it in” via reception of the other half of what makes the fetus’s presence possible: sperm. If she did not want to warrant or invite the fetus in, she would abstain from sexual intercourse, or utilize some manner of birth control. This is her opportunity to keep the fetus out. However, if contraception does not occur, the fetus is right at home in the womb, warranted with an invitation.

Regarding involuntary sexual intercourse, the case of a rape, the fetus is mischaracterized as a trespasser. The trespasser in the case of rape would be the transmitter of the sperm, namely the rapist. The fetus, since it is an individual human, as we both agree, is again, not “the” trespasser, or “a” trespasser. It is the child of the trespasser. Again, the fetus does not possess the faculties to trespass (decision to voluntarily act). If someone trespassed in my home, I would not kill his child in or ex utero. Or, if a trespasser forced their child into my house, I would again not kill the child. The child in both examples, as well as in the case of a rape, does not have the ability to choose to trespass. Killing it in all scenarios is a violation of the non-aggression principle.

The next idea is that of abortion as an eviction. Since the fetus is not a trespasser, I also hold that it is not a contractual tenant, who, when in breach of a contractual arrangement, would be the recipient of an eviction. Clearly the fetus has no capability to enter into a contractual arrangement to occupy the space. Thus, killing it in the name of eviction would again be a violation of the non-aggression axiom. Additionally, if the fetus would be classified as a tenant, it is occupying the space with warrant and invitation (as mentioned earlier of the woman’s permitting the sperm to enter her body). Again in this case, “evicting” it via abortion would again violate the non-aggression axiom.

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