What is the Libertarian Position on Abortion?

Mar 21, 2017  

I get asked quite often what the libertarian position on abortion is. So here’s the answer:

  • (A) If abortion is the wrongful killing of another person, it is murder, and thus impermissible according to libertarian notions of justice.
  • (B) If abortion is not the wrongful killing of another person, it is not murder and so is permissible according to libertarian notions of justice.
  • (C) Libertarian political philosophy can tell us basically nothing about whether (A) or (B) is true.

Philosophy, of course, can tell us a great deal about how to choose between (A) and (B). But it wouldn’t necessarily be libertarian political philosophy that does so. Rather, it’s a question of ontology, of epistemology, and of applied ethics. This is why libertarians can and do disagree about the permissibility of abortion. Libertarianism per se doesn’t necessitate a singular answer.