Hillary Clinton famously said that a politician must have a “public and a private position”. Mrs. Clinton and I disagree on many things, including the context in which the quote was used, but I agree that many times a politician should have a public and private position on government policy. For instance, an evangelical Christian senator may believe that same-sex marriage violates his religious beliefs, but his position on public policy regarding same-sex marriage shouldn’t hinge on his religious beliefs, but on the rights of the individuals who wish to be married. When we seek to make laws, increase regulation, or ask the state to interfere, we must set aside personal beliefs and religious doctrine.
As libertarians, we believe that the individual is the expert on their own lives. We decry government interference in our healthcare, education, and food supply, because we believe the individual should be able to choose their own path. We place financial, emotional, and mental responsibility of every aspect of life squarely on the shoulders of the individual. We do not believe the state should take money from us to fund public entitlement programs, and we wish to establish private charities to help those who struggle financially.
What does this mean in terms of public policy on abortion?
As libertarians, we believe the responsibility for sex education should be on the parents, not the government. We believe the financial burden of birth control should be on the individual, not publicly-funded. We believe that the financial burden of maternity care, lost wages for recovery from birth, childcare, feeding, clothing and educating the child should be on the individual, not the government, and we seek to decrease entitlement spending. Parents of disabled children are also expected to shoulder the burden and expense of raising and caring for their child, possibly for life, without government assistance. If the state does not provide the means for caring for mother and child, if the state does not provide reliable birth control, the state cannot force mothers to bear children. The state may make official recommendations for education and birth control methods, but should not seek to regulate or ban abortion.
That is not to say that a pro-life libertarian must accept or condone abortion. There is so much one can do to prevent or eliminate abortion without seeking government regulation.
Libertarians believe in personal responsibility and personal liberty, and not surprisingly, reducing abortion begins with you, the individual. Practice safe sexual practices with effective birth control if you aren’t ready to have a child. Provide comprehensive sex education to your children. If your values permit, help your child obtain effective birth control when they wish to become sexually active. Teach your children that their bodies are their personal responsibility, and you expect them to make educated decisions about their actions.
Beyond your own person and family, there is more a pro-life libertarian can do. Libertarians believe in personal charity to replace government entitlements, so donate money to an organization helping women obtain birth control. Give money to charities that help mothers pay for medical expenses, childcare, diapers, and food. Give to your local food bank. Sponsor families in need for holidays, or year-round. Volunteer at schools and organizations serving underprivileged children. Give to organizations to help parents caring for disabled children, or simply give money to a struggling family. Open your home to foster children, or become adoptive parents to children who have no family.
The last thing pro-life libertarians can do is change the conversation and attitude about motherhood. Instead of stigmatizing single mothers, praise them for making the exact decision you wanted them to make – having the baby instead of getting an abortion. That mother with the crying baby in the grocery store? Help her put her groceries on the checkout counter and tell her thank you for her hard work in raising a child. The mother nursing on the park bench? Tell her she’s doing a wonderful job and offer her a bottle of water. The pregnant woman standing on the subway or bus? Offer her your seat and tell her thank you for bringing a new baby into the world. Tell your pregnant subordinate you’re happy to give her as much time off as she needs because mothers are important to our society. Tell the new father the same thing. Because all these people chose to have their baby instead of getting an abortion, and if you’re pro-life, you are happy they did.
The desperation that causes women to seek abortion is a social issue, not a legislative one. When we ask the government to stay out of our sex lives, our medical care, our parenting, and our pocketbook, we have to mean it. When a libertarian sees the need for social change, they need to be willing and ready to step in and help make it happen instead of relying on government interference.
A frequently-shared quote on social media was spoken by Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I challenge libertarians to do just that. Be the change you wish to see, don’t ask the state to change it for you.
* The author has a bachelor’s degree in communication and is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mother to three children. She enjoys learning about history and political science, debating public policy and drinking rum.