Many libertarians believe the ancient issue of abortion will disappear in a libertarian society. This is because the pro-choice position is often mistakenly thought to be inherent in libertarianism. The misconception that a libertarian is “socially liberal and economically conservative” is so common and so misleading, it is no wonder that few people understand that the political platform of a libertarian has but a single plank: the non-aggression principle.

With that rule in hand, a free society can measure solutions offered for solving its various problems. With that plank, it may arrive at a surprising, unlooked-for answer to the abortion question; an answer in accord with Catholic teaching.

The Church has—from the beginning and without exception—taught that abortion is the wrongful taking of innocent human life. The Catechism recognizes the complete humanity of the unborn:

Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”

Unborn children are human individuals, known and seen by God. Thousands of years ago the Old Testament taught the same truth:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” Jer. 1:5.

“My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” Ps. 139:15.

Since the first century, the Catholic Church has affirmed the evil of abortion, whether as an end or a means. The issue is addressed directly in some of the earliest Christian documents, as in this directive from the first-century Christian tract, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles:

“You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.”  The Didache, Ch. 2.

The Catechism teaches that this is unchangeable:

“The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin.”

“Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death.”  Instruction on Respect for Human Life, Sec III.

Abortion is not only immoral but also criminal. Because it kills a human being, it is the ultimate violation of the non-aggression principle. For this reason, the Catholic Church teaches that “abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.” Gaudium et spes, ¶ 51.

. . . . continued in part 2, here

In parts 2, 3, and 4, we will go beyond this moral teaching of the Church and examine why the pro-life position is in complete harmony with libertarian principles.

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* The writer uses the term “unborn child” to describe a human being between conception and birth, reserving the more limited terms such as “embryo” or “fetus” only when referring to those specific periods of human gestation.

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