Murray Rothbard on Abortion (For a New Liberty)


“Most discussion of the issue bogs down in minutiae about when human life begins, when or if the fetus can be considered to be alive, etc. All this is really irrelevant to the issue of the legality (again, not necessarily the morality) of abortion. The Catholic antiabortionist, for example, declares that all that he wants for the fetus is the rights of any human being—i.e., the right not to be murdered. But there is more involved here, and this is the crucial consideration. If we are to treat the fetus as having the same rights as humans, then let us ask: What human has the right to remain, unbidden, as an unwanted parasite within some other human being’s body? This is the nub of the issue: the absolute right of every person and hence every woman, to the ownership of her own body. What the mother is doing in an abortion is causing an unwanted entity within her body to be ejected from it: If the fetus dies, this does not rebut the point that no being has a right to live, unbidden, as a parasite within or upon some person’s body.

The common retort that the mother either originally wanted or at least was responsible for placing the fetus within her body is, again, beside the point. Even in the stronger case where the mother originally wanted the child, the mother, as the property owner in her own body, has the right to change her mind and to eject it.”

For a New Liberty, p.139


  1. Whackhead Murray Rothbard as a poster boy for libertarianism. Jesus. I would be trying to distance myself from him as far as I could.

    In dissecting pure nonsense, it often helps to paraphrase the opponent’s claims, removing the emotionally loaded words and replacing them with clear English. Thus we could write, “Abortion is the removal of an unwanted developing human being from a woman’s body. This developing human being is entirely reliant for survival on the woman’s body. No human has the right to be entirely reliant for survival on anyone else’s body.” Then the bullshit stands out clearly.

    There’s a reason why the rights of the mother are usually given precedence over those of the unborn child. She has proved herself to be a viable human being, while the foetus has still the hurdles of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death to overcome. Society has invested a lot more in the mother. Even planned children will be a burden on the parents, and unwanted children may be even more so (but not inevitably so: I’m extremely glad that my daughter did not abort the “mistake” who is now the grandson who I adore). Arguments for abortion, to be valid, can only be based on pragmatism.

    I’m surprised too, to read that a libertarian, upholder of the doctrine that my rights end where your body starts, should contradict himself so blatantly with the bland assertion that the woman’s rights over her body are absolute, even when this entails the violent dismemberment of the foetus’s body.

    Rothbard was an economist, not a very good one either. He was not a biologist, medical doctor, neurologist or jurist. Nobody can claim to be an expert outside their field of expertise. Rothbard had not, as Dale Carnegie put it, earned the right to talk on this topic. For this to be held up as an example of good thinking does not say good things about Rational Standard.

    • Rothbard had an area of cognitive dissonance on this one. On most so-called “political” issues, he was right.

      And he was a good Austrian economist, and in other areas, his reasoning was very very good and certainly better than any Keynesian economist.

  2. The baby absolutely cannot be considered a parasite or an invader of the mother’s body. Especially in the case of sex, to kill a human being that results from voluntary actions of its parents is murder, even if the murder involves leaving a post-natal baby helpless on the hillside. That is still properly called infanticide.