Henry Neufeld argues that although abortion is morally wrong, it should not necessarily be illegal. He quite prudently argues that a society may not effectively combat a vice merely by criminalizing it:
This is a position that I believe is logically flawed. I hear it expressed repeatedly. There is an unstated assumption in there, that “making something illegal” is always the best way to attempt to put a stop to it or reduce its incidence.
Murder is illegal, and yet it happens every day. The sale and use of quite a number of drugs are illegal, yet we have one of the worst drug problems in the world here in this country where we are purportedly fighting a drug war. I could cite many examples, including the fact that speeding is also illegal, yet it happens more often than not on most roads here in my own county.
Henry notes that the purpose of his post is not to lay out a case for legalized abortion, but to point out the fallacious reasoning of the automatic criminalization of socially undesirable activities. But I shall, however, use the opportunity to briefly explain why I am both libertarian and pro-life, and how the two positions are not in contradiction.
I take, as a given proposition for public policy, that human life begins at conception. Of course, defining precisely what is human life is a highly nebulous process. It's hard to argue that a two-celled zygote is as human as you and me. On the other hand, a seven-month old fetus is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, fully human. Of course, I've made this distinction without even defining human life -- a philosophical project that I could not even begin to undertake.
Is a minute-old zygote a human being? Is a baby in contraction a human being? The answer is probably somewhere in between. But as a matter of public policy, I'm unwilling to take the risk that the zygote is human and participate in a massive genocide of innocent human life.
As a libertarian, I should reflexively risk the consequences of unrestrained liberty. Henry points out that laws against abortion restrict a person's control over his/her own body, just as drug laws do. But when one person's liberty imposes on another's, the greater imposition is the more unjust. A woman may be inconvenienced by a pregnancy, and even be put as physical risk. But the child dies. Surely that is the greater harm. No one has a right to avoid inconvenience or even medical trauma at the expense of another innocent human life. And a fetus isn't simply a part of another human being; it is a human being itself and therefore deserves human rights.
The state has, at a minimum, three basic functions: protect people from invasion, protect people from violence, and enforce contracts. Abortion is violence against a human life, and therefore restricting it is a legitimate function of the state. And I make this conclusion even with my uncertainty about the definition of human life because the likelihood that a fetus is human is so high, and the moral cost to society for permitting it so horrible, that state intervention to prevent is justified.