ONE OF THE oldest and most heated intra-libertarian disputes is over the ability to electively end a pregnancy. Historically, the pro-abortion rights position has had more sway. The first Libertarian Party platform in 1972 called for "the repeal of all laws restricting voluntary birth control or voluntary termination of pregnancies during their first hundred days," and it's not hard to see why a movement that holds such values as choice and autonomy sacred would come down on that side of the debate. Yet disagreement has proved stubbornly persistent: Ron Paul, the L.P.'s 1988 presidential nominee and a former obstetrician, identifies as "an unshakable foe of abortion." A Cato Institute study using 2008 American National Election Study data found that more than a third of the country's libertarians are pro-life.
At Reason, the presumption in favor of abortion rights has never been so rigid as to stop us from giving space in our pages to arguments both for and against. The affirmative and negative cases on this page are excerpted from a forum that appeared in the magazine's April 1978 issue.
AFFIRMATIVE: Don't Sacrifice People for the Sake of Potential People
"HUMAN BEINGS HAVE [life, liberty, and property] rights because they should live so as to further their own happiness, and it is the proper function of a legal system to protect and preserve these rights. When the exercise of these rights would conflict with some other value, the legal system of a good human...