Monday, August 20, 2012

Akin's Idiotic Remark Obscures the Libertarian Point He Made Right After It


, member of the United States House of Represe...
Stupid? Oh, yeah: US Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), the GOP's US Senate nominee in Missouri, claimed on television that pregnancy from rape is "really rare" and that the female body has some biological process for detecting rape and preventing pregnancy from it.

It's a shame he said that, because right after he said it, he went right to the main argument that pro-life libertarians make about abortion: "[T]he punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."

No, I'm not going to try to settle the abortion debate in a blog post. But it's important to remember that among libertarians, that debate does not turn on conflicting claims of what constitutes libertarian principle.

Rather it turns on as yet unsettled questions regarding when and how a human being becomes a "person" with "rights." Libertarians agree that aggression is wrong. What they disagree on vis a vis abortion is whether or not abortion is aggression based on their own answers to those unsettled questions.

Akin believes that an embryonic or fetal human being is a "person" with "rights" that ought not to be violated. And he stands by that belief even in cases of rape by noting that while the mother may be the victim, it is not the embryonic or fetal human being which is the aggressor.

In other words, on the subject of abortion, Akin's reasoning is libertarian.

Mitt Romney Steve Pearce event 019
The response of the statist center-left to his remarks is exactly what one would expect. It's the response of the statist center-right which is interesting -- they are (or at least Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are) running as far and as fast from a libertarian position as they can get by announcing that they don't oppose abortion in case of rape:

"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.

And this, in turn, establishes that all that "sanctity of life, blah, blah, blah" guff is just that -- guff. They're trying to have it both ways. If they were really against abortion because they think the embryo/fetus has rights, they'd be against it in cases of rape or incest, too. That they aren't indicates that it's all about controlling women, or some other similarly irrational/authoritarian thing.

Disclaimer: No, I am not a Todd Akin fan. In point of fact, I was his Libertarian Party opponent for election to the US House of Representatives in 2008. And while I am not an expert on biology, I suspect his take on the biology of rape/pregnancy is waaaaaaay off and fully understand why people find it offensive (it reminds me of his predecessor in both the US House and the US Senate, Jim Talent, who said in a public debate that he opposed cloning because he didn't want to be walking down the street and run into himself). But in this one specific area, he's taking a libertarian ideological approach to a question, and that is noteworthy.


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