Way back in 2011, when TOL was just a single lady (me) pontificating to the Internet, I wrote a post called “The ‘Science’ of Abortion” which basically asserted that people who claim to be able to use “science” to prove that abortion is right/wrong/whatever probably don’t know what the word “science” means, or have a hard time distinguishing “science” and “philosophy.” Now that the Koch brothers earning scare-quote libertarian status because they have reportedly been funding “abortion”causes, it seems I need to make this point again so that everyone can hear it:
Where you believe life begins is a philosophical, definitional question, not inherently a political one.
Let’s start with the ground I covered in my post two years ago about this, modified for some clarification.
Abortion is ultimately a debate of fundamental definitions. Where does human life deserving of rights begin? That is not something that science can help us with, because that’s not something that we as a society have an agreed-upon definition for. Science gives us data and readouts, not definitions. Definitions are socially constructed by what we all agree to call things.
Take the color red. “Red” is a definition that we had long before science came along to tell us what all the things we call red have in common. Science can tell you if the wavelength of the light bouncing off a rose hitting your eyes is 650 nanometers or not, but it does not tell you what to call it. We could have called light at 650nm “red” or “orange” or “zebra.” We knew what color to call a rose long before science told us anything else about light.
So too, science can tell us all sorts of neat factoids about the heartbeat of a fetus, its brain activity, and perhaps give us some clues as to whether or not it can feel pain. But science cannot tell us whether a being with X amount of brain activity or Y capacity for pain is a human being deserving of rights. That is a question that we, as a society, have to figure out and define for ourselves.
Because of this, the question of abortion is one that transcends political affiliations and other ideologies. You can be a Democrat, Republican, or Libertarian and be pro-life. If you accept that a fetus at a certain state of development is a human being with rights and privileges, then certain actions of government logically follow from that. What the role of government is depends on your political affiliation, certainly, but minarchist, night-watchman state libertarians (of which I count myself among) certainly have a tenable position that the government has a duty to interfere with the forced termination of human life.
Which brings me to the Koch brothers. You can argue till you’re blue in the face that the brothers Koch do not fit your particular definition of libertarianism because of the myriad of things that they do or believe in. They are certainly great (but not the only) backers of libertarian organizations in the country, even if these organizations are, to some, “libertarian lite.” But I think that the fact that they believe that life begins at conception is not grounds for kicking them out of the movement or out of the party. It is a perfectly acceptable libertarian position that, if human life begins at conception, then the government has a duty to intervene in the ending of that life. It’s just logical.
So if Slate and its ilk could just go back to hating the Koch brothers due to its wacky conspiracy theory that they somehow “control” the liberty movement, we can all just go home. Thanks.