Alex Berenson, Libertarians, and Roe v. Wade

Alex Berenson, Libertarians, and Roe v. Wade May 12, 2022

Alex Berenson is a brave man.  Cancelled by Twitter and implicitly designated by the Justice Department as a domestic terrorist, his crime has been truth-telling.  Yet he continues to tell the truth.

A former New York Times reporter who quit the Gray Lady because he could no longer abide its pattern of providing comfort food to leftists rather than objective reporting, Berenson has been telling the truth about Covid vaccines for the last two years no matter who is offended.

His book Pandemia: How Coronavirus Hysteria Took Over Our Government, Rights, and Lives (Washington DC: Regnery, 2021) is a refreshing dive into facts and reason amidst a media culture of hysteria and mythology.

The mainstream media are just beginning to recognize that the vaccines are ineffective and even harmful.  It was recently revealed that states like Vermont that have the highest rates of vaccinations and boosters are the heaviest hit by new Omicron cases.  The world is starting to hear that top athletes worldwide are strangely disappearing from competition because of severe illness after being vaccinated.  Large numbers of young men are suffering from myocarditis after being vaccinated.

So Berenson is starting to be vindicated.  This cheers me because it is good to see courage rewarded.  But I must differ with Mr Berenson on his recent post about the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court.

Berenson is a self-declared libertarian, so perhaps my argument is against the libertarian position on abortion more generally.

Mr. Berenson has three objections against the possible end of Roe v. Wade, which means against the return of the abortion question to state legislatures.  (For, in case anyone needs reminding, the likely result of the imminent SCOTUS ruling is not a national ban on abortion but simply the return to its legal status before 1973 when states differed.  Presumably new statutes will be issued state by state, some very liberal as in New York and California and some restrictive as in Texas and Mississippi.)

First, Mr Berenson complains, conservatives are hypocritical when they object to vaccine mandates because the government should not compel us on matters concerning the treatment of our own bodies.  And if “my body my choice” applies to vaccines, it should also apply to abortion.

Second, laws concerning bodies are permissible only if they pass two rules—they must have overwhelming theoretical justification and they must have practical hope of success without relying on a level of police power that is incompatible with a democratic state. Overturning Roe would pass the first because “no one is more innocent than a fetus,” but not the second.

Third, Berenson hints that this change in abortion law might be wrong because it is “only” a religiously-backed precept.  Perhaps he agrees with President Biden that ending Roe is compatible with his Catholic religion but he cannot force his religious views on others.

I would suggest to Mr. Berenson and other libertarians that there are rational problems with his position.

First, let’s do a thought experiment.  What if the issue were slavery?  Or racist discrimination?  Would he say conservatives are hypocritical for objecting to vaccine mandates but permitting police action against slavery or racist acts?

Would he not agree that vaccine mandates are wrong because they force people to take medicine against their will when they alone should make those decisions?  But that slavery and racist acts are also against the will of victims and therefore need to be enforced by police power?

Surely Mr Berenson would not say that police power against slavery and racist acts are incompatible with a democratic state.  For we already have such police power in play against those things, and he does not seem to object to them.

Besides, Mr Berenson argues for continued laws against drugs that harm people, especially children, and that those laws can play a pedagogical role.  As he puts it, “Laws against drug use have a notable effect on the number of people who are willing to try illegal drugs.”

The same is true for abortion. As former professor at Vanderbilt Law School Carol Swain has written, the 1973 Roe decision helped weaken her resistance to her own decision to terminate a pregnancy, which she has deeply regretted.  No surprise that the numbers of abortions rose astronomically after 1973.  Laws do teach.

If the little baby in the womb is truly a human being, which not only religion but also science attests, does it not make sense to protect these little human beings with the help of the law?

We say we should protect all other human beings against their being killed if we can help it.  Why not these little human beings?

But lest the issue be confused, the possibly-imminent overturning of Roe says nothing about the morality of abortion, only that it is not enshrined in the Constitution and so should be returned to the states.  Let the people of each state determine these questions, rather than nine unelected judges.

Your body, your choice.  That’s right.  But that little baby in the womb is another little body.

I would hope that Mr. Berenson and all other libertarians would see the sense of legal protection for other little bodies.  Or at least the sense of returning these questions to legislative bodies closer to the people.


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