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An Exchange Between David F. Nolan and Doris Gordon On Abortion and the Libertarian Party Platform

Libertarians for Life
Copyright 1996

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Introduction
I. A Letter from David F. Nolan to Doris Gordon, October 23, 1995
II. An Open Response to David F. Nolan, by Doris Gordon, February 1, 1996
III. Nolan's Response, February 6, 1996
IV. Gordon's Reply, March 1, 1996

Supplementary Information:
A. "The Essence of Liberty," by David F. Nolan
B. Tracing Changes on Abortion and Children's Rights in the Libertarian Party Platform

Introduction

In July 1995, the LP News, the national newspaper of the Libertarian Party (LP), carried an article by David Nolan on the Declaration of Independence ("The Fourth: Let's celebrate Libertarian holiday").

Doris Gordon, the founder of Libertarians for Life (LFL), wrote a letter to the editor commenting on points in this article, and sent a copy to Nolan. He sent back a brief reply, which inspired her to send him her recent article, "Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly."

His comments in response to the "Abortion and Rights" article are given below, along with her response to him.

As the LP News has noted, Nolan is the LP's "prime founder"; it was he who in December 1971 called for the convention that organized the LP. He has remained active in the party ever since. His contact with leading libertarians is wide. His observations on the state of the abortion debate among libertarians should be of interest. Also important is his opinion on where the LP platform should stand on abortion.

Besides the interchange on abortion, you will also find below Nolan's recent article, "The Essence of Liberty."

Over the years, what the LP platform says on abortion has undergone important changes. The final section included traces the changes. It also traces changes in other planks relevant to children's rights.

Gordon's article, "Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly," was originally published in Studies in Prolife Feminism, Spring 1995. Libertarians for Life also has available other articles on abortion and the LP platform. Please see LFL's literature list for more details.


I. A Letter from David F. Nolan

October 23, 1995

Dear Doris:

Thanks for sending the "Abortion and Rights" article; it is well-written and coherent.

Unfortunately (for you) it ultimately fails to persuade me, because when push comes to shove, I cannot bring myself to support the notion that a newly-impregnated woman must be consigned to nine months of service to a being which, at the start, is no more than a small group of cells... lacking consciousness, will, or the ability to exist independently. This is especially true in situations where the woman is a victim of rape, but the essential principle of freedom to change one's mind (barring a contractual obligation) applies even in cases where the pregnancy arises from a voluntary act.

You raise the issue of "personhood" -- when does a person become a person, with all the rights thereof? "Pro-lifers" say "at conception," while "pro-choicers" say "at birth". Both of these are arbitrary positions; each has its merits, and its flaws. And most people, I believe, "take sides" in the abortion debate primarily on an emotional basis. If they empathize primarily with the woman, they go "pro-choice": if they empathize primarily with the baby-to-be, they go "pro-life". And because most of us have some empathy for both parties, we tend to want "fuzzy" rules rather than "hard-edged" rules. (See Chapter 13 of Fuzzy Thinking, by Bart Kosko, a libertarian.)

My own "fuzzy" position is that abortion should be allowed "at will" during the first three months of a pregnancy, allowable only "for cause" (i.e. rape, incest, strong evidence of a serious defect in the fetus, threat to the life of the mother) in the second trimester, and only when the mother's life is clearly in danger during the third.

This is, of course, an arbitrary position... and I'm not 100% happy with it. But ALL positions in this debate are arbitrary, and I've not seen or heard one yet that I'm 100% comfortable with! This being so, I have long maintained that the LP should drop the present pro-choice plank from the national platform, and let individual candidates take their own stands. Abortion is not one of the five "litmus test" issues in my recent editorial on the basics of libertarianism (copy enclosed).

I hope this answers your questions, as I really don't have time for further correspondence on this topic. Thanks for trying to keep the debate civilized.

For Freedom,

David F. Nolan

PS: If you wish to circulate copies of this letter, that's OK with me, provided you circulate the whole thing; no quotes out of context, please!


II. An Open Response to David Nolan

by Doris Gordon

February 1, 1996

Dear Dave:

I am glad you agree with me that the Libertarian Party should drop the present abortion-choice plank from its platform. This news will probably surprise many people, since you are, as the LP News recently noted (Feb. 1996), "the prime founder of the Libertarian Party." I, too, was surprised, but other LP activists on the abortion-choice side have been telling me for years that they favor this move. Your letter reflects why many feel this way.

It also reflects one reason why in 1976 I decided to found Libertarians for Life: I was bothered by things libertarians were saying to me in defense of abortion choice. Your observations confirm my continuing observation that the abortion-choice side had no sound case.

The political purpose of the LP is to elect libertarians to office. This purpose has an underlying purpose: to make politics conform to the non-aggression principle. Non-aggression is not a political slogan but the LP's standard. An official position of the LP is suspect if the case for it is arbitrary and emotional. The non-aggression principle is not only about requiring governments to respect an individual's unalienable rights. It also requires that each individual respects the rights of all other individuals.

The platform defends the rights of human beings, but choice on abortion opposes the rights of human beings before birth. This two-tiered view cannot be reconciled with the single-tiered view in the Declaration of Independence. This document doesn't proclaim that we are born equal; it proclaims that we are created equal. To arbitrarily deny prenatal personhood is to assert that there are two tiers of humanity, and therefore to separate a human being's life from the right to be free from the initiation of force.

Another reason I founded LFL was that by arbitrarily supporting abortion choice, the LP is, in principle, giving separation of life and rights its stamp of approval. Two tiers of humanity turns libertarianism into dangerous nonsense. This is not the legacy I want to leave for future generations.

Of course, faulty reasoning against abortion choice does not wash, either. Another reason I founded LFL was to test my own reasoning against well-reasoned objections. I sent you my article, "Abortion and Rights: Applying Libertarian Principles Correctly" because you seemed willing to put me to the test. Although it left you unpersuaded, your comments do not seem to address my arguments.

"ALL positions" on personhood are arbitrary, you say, including your own. A position could be said to be merely arbitrary if it's derived from faulty reasoning. If you think my defense of personhood at conception (p. 126-130) is merely arbitrary or emotional, I wish you had cited an example of such an error.

I have Bart Kosko's book, Fuzzy Thinking. Among the things he said was, "Life starts at conception all right ... because cell growth starts there. But the question is to what degree" (p. 242). "The pro-choice view just shifts the pro-life line. ... It draws a hard line to the right of conception but where does it draw it?" (page 244). "So the abortion debate comes down to two debates. First the big one: the far-left line versus all other lines -- pro-life versus all else. Then the small one: all other lines versus all other lines -- the pro-choice spectrum" (page 245). He is correct that a "pro-choice spectrum" exists; in fact it exists even among LP members. One of the things wrong with the LP platform's abortion choice stand is that it conceals disagreements on major points among the majority. This lack of consensus is no "small debate," given the LP's claim to be "The Party of Principle." The abortion choice side has never given good reason to exclude prenatal human offspring from the right to be free from the initiation of force, yet the LP is defending two-tiers of humanity.

This line shift does not represent a difference of opinion between the two sides on what day a human individual begins life. It represents instead "the pro-choice spectrum" (p. 245) on what day, at what age, abortion choicers are willing to draw the line against killing a living human individual. As Kosko cannot deny, abortion turns a living individual into a dead one.

My article lays out the pro-life libertarian position in a systematic and logical way. I discuss unalienable rights and why this is the foundation of just law. I show why biologically, fertilization is Day 1 in an individual human being's life. I define "person" and show why personhood also begins on Day 1. I present relevant circumstantial facts of the situation of unwanted pregnancy, and I show the child to be innocent of initiating force against the mother. I think my article gives substantial reasons to conclude that abortion is an unjust initiation of force.

Another reason I founded LFL was to encourage, indeed intellectually provoke, further thinking on abortion and its implications for the future of liberty. Abortion choicers have an intellectual obligation to take pro-life arguments on their merits, or disprove them on their merits. I wish you had addressed at least some of the points in my article on the merits.

I can relate to your difficulty in accepting that "a small group of cells" has the equal right to be free from aggression. I once felt that way. But that group of cells in my mother's womb preceding my birth was me, really, and Ayn Rand taught me to not let my reasoning be guided by my emotional reactions. Intellectually, I was compelled to accept what was factually undeniable. I didn't want to oppose legal abortion, but the alternative was to claim that there are two tiers of humanity under justice instead of one.

At one time, I accepted that abortion is homicide and yet was willing, albeit reluctantly, to permit the killing. I thought there was an insoluble conflict of rights between mother and child. I became pro-life when I saw why no such conflict exists.

"The essential principle of freedom to change one's mind," you said, "(barring a contractual obligation) applies even in cases where the pregnancy arises from a voluntary act." But abortion is homicide. Some of us are not more equal than others. The freedom to change one's mind permits no exception to the obligation not to initiate force against any innocent person, not even for pregnant women.

Your letter didn't give me the impression that you have bought the argument that prenatal children are aggressors. But even assuming that a prenatal child commits trespass by being conceived in the mother's womb, this would not give the mother a right to intentionally destroy her child. The most force it would be permissible for her to use would be to evict her child from the womb and abandon her, even if the child would die this way, too.

But it is consistent with unalienable rights for a prenatal child to be in the mother's womb. This child's right stems not from the principle of contract but from the non-aggression principle. Much of my article (particularly pages 132-139) deals with the why. (A different LFL article, "Abortion in the Case of Pregnancy Due to Rape," by John Walker, discusses what makes this case peculiar and shows why it is aggression to kill children conceived this way.)

Even if abortion is dropped from the platform, my guess is that it will remain a thorn in your saddle until it is resolved. At least I hope so. The various issues abortion raises are about first principles. Libertarians cannot brush these issues off and expect to succeed in securing a libertarian future.

Again, thanks for reading my article and sending me your thoughts.

Cordially,

Doris


III. Nolan's Response

Dear Doris:

In reply to your letter of February 1 --

1) Yes, you may redistribute my letter on the Web....

2) You have permission to use the article also, as long as you include the copyright notice....

3) I will respond briefly to your "Open Response." The key words in my letter were: "I cannot... accept the notion that a newly-impregnated woman must be consigned to nine months of service... to a small group of cells ... lacking consciousness, will, or the ability to exist independently." To me, these attributes define humanity far more than simple genetic coding. If you remove a few milligrams of flesh from your fingertip, tests will show it to be human flesh: specifically yours. But that doesn't make it a "human being," with the same rights that you have.

And even if a newly-joined sperm and egg do constitute a human being, the State cannot morally compel you to sacrifice your life and resources for its benefit. As I wrote in my "Essence" article, "no external power has the right to force you into the service of society or mankind or any other individual or group, for any purpose, however noble. Slavery is wrong, period." (At some point -- say, three months into a pregnancy -- it can be reasonably argued that a woman has chosen her condition, and it's too late to back out. But I don't think that's true on "day one.")

Obviously, we could debate this whole issue endlessly, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to do so. Libertarians should "agree to disagree" on this issue, and focus their energies elsewhere.

D.F. Nolan


IV. Gordon's Reply

March 1, 1996

Dear Dave:

It is good when libertarians do both: work together where we agree and discuss the issues that divide us. The better we think issues through, the better we can present what's libertarian to the public.

Of course "flesh from your fingertip" is not a human being. But neither is fingertip flesh analogous to human zygotes, as you seem to think. A possible analogy, however, is between flesh and sperm cells. Just as a sperm needs to join with an ovum to begin growth, theoretically, so would mere flesh. No abortion debater ever was mere flesh; mere flesh doesn't mature into an adult. But each of us was a zygote. If a Dr. Frankenstein could zap that flesh, causing it to begin growth toward human adulthood, the zapped flesh would be akin to a zygote, and Zap Day would be Day One in someone's life.

Libertarianism's basic message is that like it or not, each of us owes everyone else not to aggress against them. This libertarian non-aggression principle (NAP) is the ethical foundation, the sine qua non, of a good and just society. This principle permits no exceptions. So, how would you respond to people who will read your comments as saying that even if the fetus is a person with rights, there is a three-month window in which they can be killed as a matter of sheer personal choice -- in other words, as allowing an exception to the NAP. A policy that permits the killing of any innocent human being negates the NAP. A window to decide between supporting one's child or causing her death cannot be libertarian.

The pivotal question in abortion is, of course, immediate personhood and rights at conception versus delayed personhood and rights. A window to kill doesn't answer this question but dodges it. If one doesn't know how to answer the question, it is perfectly sensible to say, "I don't know." Alternatively, it is reasonable to give the benefit of one's doubt not to killing but to life. No government has a just power to depersonify human beings who are arguably persons, or to legalize anything that would protect or enable killing them.

Human beings, who are newly conceived, lack "consciousness, will, or the ability to exist independently" only temporarily. If a temporary lack were sufficient to establish two tiers of humanity, then to be consistent, other human beings who temporarily lack these things, such as sleeping infants and people in a deep coma or under anesthesia, would also fall below the line.

I agree with you that "Slavery is wrong, period." Before I joined the LP, I was an anti-draft activist. But whom would you charge with enslavement -- the State, the prenatal child, pro-lifers, or all of the above? You didn't say. In any event, enslavement is not a given but an unproven conclusion derived from insufficient observations about the circumstantial facts of the situation (e.g., who are the causal agents of the situation, the parents, the child, all of them). Your view that "it's too late [for an unwilling woman] to back out" once three months are up is also a mere conclusion lacking support. If you found my analysis of the facts false, I wish you would have given me some idea of why so that I could have reconsidered my own argument.

Are unwilling fathers enslaved if they are not allowed to abandon their children, or do they have an escape hatch, too? If child support is optional for parents, what is the libertarian alternative for helpless children: Charity? Welfare? Death?

A parent's "self-ownership" is no blank check. I refer you to your article, "The Essence of Liberty" (see below), where you noted that "the right to own and use anything" is limited by the proviso: "so long as [we] do not harm others through force or the threat of force." A three-month escape hatch appears to disregard this proviso. But without such a proviso, libertarianism is nonsense -- dangerous nonsense -- even for us adult human beings.

It's okay for libertarians to "agree to disagree" on any issue that is a matter of hot debate. To "drop the present pro-choice plank from the national platform, and let individual candidates take their own stands" would be an important step in recognizing this. But even if we go this way, reality won't let the LP forget about abortion. Abortion is one of the most critical issues in politics, and the LP can't dodge this fact of life.

I hope this interchange of ours will encourage other libertarians to review their own positions on the issue. I think LFL's articles provide a good framework for doing so.

Cordially,

Doris


Supplementary Information


A. The Essence of Liberty

by David F. Nolan

(Copyright, 1995, 1996, David F. Nolan)

As a founder of the Libertarian Party and Editor-in-Chief of California Liberty, I am often asked how to tell if someone is "really" a libertarian.

There are probably as many different definitions of the word "libertarian" as there are people who claim the label. These range from overly broad ("anyone who calls himself a libertarian is one") to impossibly doctrinaire ("only those who agree with every word in the party platform are truly anointed"). My own definition is that in order to be considered a libertarian, at least in the political context, an individual must adhere without compromise to five key points.

Ideally, of course, we'd all be in agreement on everything. But we're not, and probably never will be. Debate is likely to continue indefinitely on such matters as abortion, foreign policy and whether, when and how various government programs can be discontinued or privatized. But as far as I'm concerned, if someone is sound on these five points, he/she is de facto a libertarian; if he fails on even one of the five, he isn't.

What, then, are the "indispensable five" -- the points of no compromise?

You Own Yourself

First and foremost, libertarians believe in the principle of self-ownership. You own your own body and mind; no external power has the right to force you into the service of "society" or "mankind" or any other individual or group for any purpose, however noble. Slavery is wrong, period.

Because you own yourself, you are responsible for your own well-being. Others are not obligated to feed you, clothe you, or provide you with health care. Most of us choose to help one another voluntarily, for a variety of reasons -- and that's as it should be -- but "forced compassion" is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms.

The Right to Self-Defense

Self-ownership implies the right to self-defense. Libertarians yield to no one in their support for our right as individuals to keep and bear arms. We only wish that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution said "The right to self-defense being inalienable..." instead of that stuff about a "well-regulated militia". Anyone who thinks that government -- any government -- has the right to disarm its citizens is NOT a libertarian!

No "Criminal Possession" Laws

In fact, libertarians believe that individuals have the right to own and use anything -- gold, guns, marijuana, sexually explicit material -- so long as they do not harm others through force or the threat of force. Laws criminalizing the simple possession of anything are tailor-made for police states; it is all too easy to plant a forbidden substance in someone's home, car or pocket. Libertarians are as tough on crime -- real crime -- as anyone. But criminal possession laws are an affront to liberty, whatever the rhetoric used to defend them.

No Taxes on Productivity

In an ideal world, there would be no taxation. All services would be paid for on an as-used basis. But in a less-than-ideal world, some services will be force-financed for the foreseeable future. However, not all taxes are equally deleterious, and the worst form of taxation is a tax on productivity -- i.e. an "income" tax -- and no libertarian supports this type of taxation.

What kind of taxation is least harmful? This is a topic still open for debate. My own preference is for a single tax on land. Is this "the" libertarian position on taxes? No. But all libertarians oppose any form of income tax.

A Sound Money System

The fifth and final key test of anyone's claim to being a libertarian is their support for an honest money system; i.e. one where the currency is backed by something of true value (usually gold or silver). Fiat money -- money with no backing, whose acceptance is mandated by the State -- is simply legalized counterfeiting and is one of the keys to expanding government power.

The five points enumerated here are not a complete, comprehensive prescription for freedom... but they would take us most of the way. A government which cannot conscript, confiscate or counterfeit, and which imposes no criminal penalties for the mere possession and peaceful use of anything, is one that almost all libertarians would be comfortable with.


B. Tracing Changes on Abortion and Children's Rights in the LP Platform

by Doris Gordon

[Page numbers are from printed editions of the Platform published by the LP that are in Doris Gordon's collection.]

The Committee to Organize a Libertarian Party, which was the precursor to the LP, convened in December 1971. It issued a "Temporary Platform of the Libertarian Party," which was silent on abortion. Its "Over-population" plank said,

"We support an end to all subsidies for childbearing built into our present laws, such as deductions for dependents in the federal income tax, and incremental allowances under the Family Assistance Plan." [p. 7]

The 1972 platform was adopted in Denver, Colorado, at the first official convention, held on June 17-18, 1972. It included for the first time the LP's "Statement of Principles," which notes "that the sole function of government is the protection of the rights of each individual: namely (1) the right to life -- and accordingly we support laws prohibiting the initiationof physical force against others...".

In this edition, the hyphen was deleted from the title, "Overpopulation," and a position on abortion was added:

"We support an end to all subsidies for childbearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children. We further support the repeal of all laws restricting voluntary birth control or voluntary termination of pregnancies during their first hundred days. We shall oppose all coercive measure to control population growth." [p. 8]

Notice the 100-day limit. Abortion, later legalized by Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton on January 22, 1973, in effect permitted abortion unconditionally until birth.

The 1974 Platform was adopted during the June 12-16, 1974, convention in Dallas, Texas. The plank's name was again changed, this time to "Population." Another change was that the first-hundred-day time limit was dropped, thus now permitting abortion until birth, unconditionally. It said,

"We support an end to all subsidies for childbearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children. We further support the repeal of all laws restricting voluntary birth control or the right of the woman to make a personal moral choice regarding the termination of pregnancy. We call for the elimination of special tax burdens of single people and couples with few or no children. We shall oppose all coercive measures to control population growth." [pp. 8-9]

The 1976 Platform was adopted in New York, New York at the August 28-31, 1975, convention. When it was printed, the abortion plank and one other were inadvertently omitted. However, the wording remained as in 1974.

The platform was not on the agenda of the 1976 convention, held in Washington, D.C., September 24-26. However, abortion choice was discussed approvingly at a panel of the Association of Libertarian Feminists on Saturday, September 25. (Libertarians for Life was born immediately after the conclusion of the panel at about 1:00 p.m., due to remarks by one of the panelists and two other libertarians at the convention.)

The 1978 Platform adopted in convention at San Francisco, California, July 14-17, 1977, retained the 1974 abortion plank. The "Health Care" plank, however, had an addition that said,

"We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services." [p. 3]

Entirely new to the platform was a "Children's Rights" plank. It said,

"We believe that 'children' are human beings and, as such, have the same rights as any other human beings. Any reference in this Platform to the rights of human beings includes children." [p. 2]

In the 1982 Platform, the "Population" plank continued to discuss abortion. But the main statement on abortion was moved to a new plank, "Women's Rights." Among the additional points in this new plank was an indirect acknowledgment that many libertarians object to the LP's support for abortion. The convention at which this plank was passed marked the 10th anniversary of the LP. It was held in Denver, Colorado, on August 27-30, 1981.

The revised "Population" plank now read,

"Recognizing that the American people are not a collective national resource, we oppose all coercive measures for population control.

"We oppose government actions which either compel or prohibit abortion, sterilization, or any other forms of birth control. Specifically, we condemn the vicious practice of forced sterilization of welfare recipients or of mentally retarded or 'genetically defective' individuals.

"We regard the tragedies caused by unplanned, unwanted pregnancies to be aggravated, if not created, by government policies of censorship, restriction, regulation and prohibition. Therefore, we call for the repeal of all laws which restrict anyone, including children, from engaging in voluntary exchanges of goods, services or information regarding human sexuality, reproduction, birth control, or related medical or biological technologies.

"We equally oppose government laws and policies that restrict the opportunity to choose alternatives to abortion, including but not restricted to the centralizing and hamstringing of adoption services and the prohibition of decentralized market oriented adoption services.

"We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children. We urge the elimination of special tax burdens on single people and couples with few or no children."

The new plank on abortion, "Women's Rights," said,

"We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as 'protective' labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women. We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.

"Recognizing that each person must be the sole and absolute owner of his or her own body, we support the right of women to make a personal choice regarding the termination of pregnancy. We oppose the undermining of that right via laws requiring consent of the pregnant woman's parents, consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, or compulsory provision of indoctrination on medical risks or fetal development. However, we also oppose all tax funding for abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another's abortion. We also condemn state-mandated abortion."

Notice, also, the 1980 "Population" plank had said "personal moral choice." In 1982, "moral" was deleted from "Women's Rights."

In the 1984 platform, no change was made to the "Women's Rights" plank that was adopted in convention at New York, New York, September 1-4, 1983. However, the "Children's Rights" plank was expanded. One addition relevant to abortion in principle was,

"Whenever parents or other guardians are unwilling or unable to care for their children, those guardians have the right to seek other persons who are willing to assume guardianship...."

But what if they don't want to bother seeking them, or what if they seek but can't find any volunteers? May the guardians abandon their children and let them die? The plank doesn't say.

Here is the full text of the amended "Children's Rights" plank:

"Children are human beings and as such, have all the rights of human beings.

"We oppose all laws that empower government officials to seize children and make them 'wards of the state' or, by means of child labor laws and compulsory education, to infringe on their freedom to work or learn as they choose. We oppose all legally created or sanctioned discrimination against (or in favor of) children, just as we oppose government discrimination directed at any other artificially defined sub-category of human beings. Specifically we oppose ordinances that outlaw adults only apartments.

"We also support the repeal of all laws establishing any category of crimes applicable to children for which adults would not be similarly answerable, such as curfew, smoking, and alcoholic beverage laws, and other status offenses. Similarly, we favor the repeal of 'stubborn child' laws and laws establishing the category of 'persons in need of supervision.' We call for an end to the practice of all 'children's codes' of[or] statutes which abridge due process protections for young people. We further favor the abolition of the juvenile court system, so that juveniles will be held fully responsible for their crimes.

"Whenever parents or other guardians are unwilling or unable to care for their children, thoseguardians have the right to seek other persons who are willing to assume guardianship, and children have the right to seek other guardians who place a higher value on their lives. Accordingly, we oppose all laws that impede these processes, notably those restricting private adoption services or those forcing children to remain in the custody of their parents against their will.

"Children should always have the right to establish their maturity by assuming the administration and protection of their own rights, ending dependency upon their parents or other guardians and assuming all the responsibility of adulthood."

The 1986 platform was passed in 1985 at Phoenix, Arizona. I can't find my copy, but going by the 1988 platform, no changes were made in "Women's Rights" and "Children's Rights."

The 1988 platform was adopted at the LP's September 1987 convention held in Seattle, Washington.

The 1990 platform changed the name of "Women's Rights" to "Women's Rights and Abortion." It was adopted in September at the 1989 convention that met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The 1992 platform, adopted August 1991 in Chicago, Illinois, inserted a new "Family Life" plank between "Women's Rights and Abortion" and "Children's Rights." Its point about contract does not address the problem that children are not, originally at least, contractual parties. It said,

"We support protection of the integrity of families and households as contractual institutions against government intrusion and interference. Such governmental interference has undermined the value of families and households as cultural institutions of love, nurture, companionship, kinship, and personal development by forcing them to conform to a rigid, inflexible design. Moreover, we condemn the usurpation by government through morals laws, government welfare programs, and government schools, of activities long carried on by families and households. We further accuse government of designing educational programs that place civic and moral education under the control of politicians and of designing welfare laws that destroy families and households."

A new paragraph was also inserted in the "Children's Rights" plank, making it the second one. This addition said,

"We recognize that children who have not reached maturity need guardians to secure their rights and to aid in the exercise of those rights. We hold that guardianship belongs to those who most love and value the child and his or her development, normally the parents and never the state."

The September 1993 convention adopted the 1994 platform in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is the current plank. It reads:

"19. WOMEN'S RIGHTS AND ABORTION

"We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as protective labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women. We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.

"Recognizing that each person must be the sole and absolute owner of his or her own body, we support the right of women to make a personal choice regarding the termination of pregnancy or regarding voluntary surrogacy arrangements. We oppose the undermining of the right via laws requiring consent of the pregnant woman's parents, consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, or compulsory provision of indoctrination on medical risks or fetal development. In addition, we oppose all restrictions on the sale of menstruation-inducing contragestive pills, such as RU 486, which block fertilized eggs from attaching themselves to the womb. However, we also oppose all tax funding for abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another's abortion. We also condemn state-mandated abortions.

"We oppose the fetal protection doctrine under which the state could require prenatal testing, require Caesarian births, require fetal surgery, require force feeding of the mother, jail pregnant substance abusers, bar home births, and bar pregnant women from working in unhealthy places and which would hold a woman legally liable -- because of her diet or personal behavior -- for having a damaged or deformed child. Under this doctrine, women could also be held liable for not aborting a damaged or deformed fetus."




Some additional information

After the 1994 plank was passed, some states reacted against it. For some information on this, please read LFL's article, "The LP's 'Women's Rights and Abortion' Plank: A 1994 Update -- and Maryland and Pennsylvania Libertarian Party Resolutions." For a detailed analysis on the LP platform from LFL's perspective, please see "Abortion Choice: In Harmony or In Conflict with the Rest of the Libertarian Party Platform."* Other flyers of special interest to LP members include: "Platform Planks and Principles: Where do you stand on abortion?"; "LFL Polls National and Maryland LP Conventions"; "LFL Challenges Libertarian Party's 'Pro-Choice' Position"; and "Questions for the Libertarian Party on Abortion: Should the Libertarian Party Condone or Condemn Abortion? Should the State Permit or Prohibit Abortion? Where Is the Case for Abortion? How Should We Decide When in Doubt?"




LFL explains and defends the libertarian case against abortion choice. Our reasoning is expressly scientific and philosophical rather than either pragmatic or religious, or merely political or emotional.

Libertarians for Life
13424 Hathaway Drive
Wheaton, MD 20906
footlogo.gif (5216 bytes) Phone: 301/460-4141
Email: dorisgordon@comcast.net
Web Sites: http://www.L4L.org
http://www.LibertariansforLife.org

Logos Courtesy of Lonnie R. Williams