Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 557, February 14, 2010

"The path of agorism is not easy."

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Of Blue Eyes and Bambi
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

A couple of weeks ago, The Libertarian Enterprise published an article I wrote called "I Told You So", about a young Tallahassee, Florida woman who was ordered by her doctor, a state's attorney, and a judge to remain in a hospital against her will because they had all decided that the fetus she was carrying possessed more rights than she does. The action was taken despite a privacy clause in the Florida constitution that recognizes an individual right to refuse medical treatment.

What made these events significant to me was that I had predicted, in one of my novels, that if anti-abortionists got their way, in the punitive statist climate that has developed in America during the past couple of decades, it could ultimately result in the incarceration of women suspected of not wanting to be pregnant, or accused of drinking, smoking, or other activity deemed by authorities to be harmful to the fetus.

The Florida woman was a smoker.

That's all there was to it. I had predicted a certain phenomenon, and that phenomenon had come to pass. Period. So I was surprised to receive a couple of extremely emotional responses from readers that went far beyond anything I had written, either in the article or the novel. While I support any woman's absolute right to control her body and any products of her body, it is not my favorite issue to write about, and I am annoyed to have to do it again. I have a strong opinion about religion, too, but I never write about it if I can avoid it.

Elsewhere in this issue of The Libertarian Enterprise, you'll see one of the messages sent to me, published with the permission of its author, Steve Lynes, whose amiability and honesty made me feel an obligation to write back to him. He isn't likely to like what I write in reply, but the obligation I feel doesn't include sugar coating the truth.

Steve starts off with a naked, unsupported assertion: "The so- called 'fetus' that you refer to (a human being to me) has natural rights, or God-given depending on your perspective, just like the mother does." Steve's implication seems to be that I am somehow trying to diminish the ethical status of the entity in question—or perhaps more importantly, to deny him a point he wishes to make without having to properly argue in its favor—by referring to it by its correct name.

However,, in this case citing the 2010 Random House Dictionary, defines "fetus" as: "noun ... (used chiefly of viviparous mammals) the young of an animal in the womb or egg, esp. in the later stages of development when the body structures are in the recognizable form of its kind, in humans after the end of the second month of gestation".

Believing he's gotten away with this "stolen concept", he rushes on: "Unfortunately due to all the feminists pushing 'choice' (for the mother that is) the rights of the baby are ignored." The trouble with this idea (aside from an attempted well-poisoning by dragging "all the feminists" into it) is that a fetus—not a baby yet—is incapable of making any choice, and that its incapability in no way negates the woman's right to make choices about how her own body is going to be used.

"Who is going to advocate for the baby's rights?" he asks a bit rhetorically, seeing that he, himself, is doing it. "Who is going to stand up for the baby's life?" The fact is that no one should be doing it because there is no baby yet, and the object he's defending has no rights.

"I believe in allowing someone to live their life as they see fit," Steve informs us with grand generosity, "as long as they harm no one else in the process but in this instance the mother is harming someone else, the baby. Many automatically and incorrectly (also immorally in my opinion) discount the baby's choice, the baby's rights, and the baby's life when they support or elect to have an abortion."

What baby?

What choice?

What rights?

"Yes a woman should have a choice," Steve tells us, "as we all should, to include the baby." In other words, we are perfectly free to choose—as long as each of us chooses "correctly" to agree with Steve.

Gee, thanks, Steve.

But now things take a much uglier turn. Steve exposes himself a little more than he most likely intended, when he writes, "In a rational and moral society, after she made that first choice, the choice to willingly spread her legs and have unprotected sex, her choices should end if she happens to become pregnant from her act of coupling."

Is it just me, or are these the words of someone who hates sex, women who enjoy sex, or both? "She made her bed and now needs to deal with the consequences of her actions and assume responsibility for them."

Which is what she may be doing by responsibly declining to bring an unwanted fetus to term. How many abused, battered, and murdered children are a result of religion or the state forcing women to bear them? Where did you get your morality, Steve, from a box of Cracker Jack?

"She could have chosen," Steve goes on, "to not have sex, to have her partner wear a condom, to have an IUD emplaced, to take birth control, to use a diaphragm, foam, etc., etc." Sure she could, but it's her body and she doesn't need someone like Steve peeking in the bedroom window, offering advice. Who the hell appointed him the Sex Police?

In all the years—decades, actually—that I've been debating with various individuals over this issue, all but perhaps one or two of them have wound up, in the end, sort of pathetically betraying themselves as examples of deep and bitter sexual resentment—and envy—toward others. That's a reason I hate arguing with them about it.

Steve isn't any different from the others. "But when she chooses," he declares, "to be irresponsible and just plain lazy in many instances by having unprotected sex, then she gives up her ability to make further choices on the issue (besides giving the baby up for adoption) because at that point another life has been thrown into the equation."

He adds, "Abortion is murder, pure and simple."

Somebody needs to tell Steve that he has proven nothing with this psychologically revealing antisexual tirade, and the fact that people may occasionally conceive, by accident, while enjoying recreational intimacy, in no way proves that reversing that conception constitutes the wrongful death of a human being, which is the proper definition of murder.

Disingenuously conflating the phenomenon of life in general with a human life in particular is an old trick of Steve's anti-abortion allies, but it won't wash here. According to a signboard along the highway between here and Colorado Springs, "Abortion stops a beating heart".

So does a rat trap.

Steve goes on: "Abortion clinics should be closed down and doctors who practice that black art should be tried and imprisoned if found guilty."

Black art? I suppose cameras steal our souls, too.

"I don't think we need to legislate or regulate any additional laws or rules regarding the act," he says. "There are already plenty of laws and rules enough to deal with murder, we just need to make it known that this act is another of the many forms of murder and will be prosecuted."

And how do we "make it known", except by additional legislation or regulation? Do we just declare it, or do we get to follow due process, here?

"If a woman chooses to have a back alley abortion that is her prerogative but she needs to know that it is immoral and vile [Why, because Steve says so?] and if she is found out she will be charged and tried." Meaning that it's not her prerogative after all, then, is it? Not if she's going to be arrested by the Sex Police. With every word he writes, Steve brings us closer to my original police state predictions.

The next logical steps to follow, of course, are preemptive arrest, preventive detention, and protective custody for the fetus, as I predicted, and exactly like what happened to the young woman from Tallahassee.

For some reason, Steve yields to a compulsion to add, "I do believe that women should be able to save their own lives in a medical emergency but other than that there is no excuse to murder an innocent child."

Now hang on a minute. Even if the woman is doomed to die a nasty, prolonged, and agonizing death, how is that the fault of an innocent child? Haven't we been arguing over a right it possesses to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness? Why should it have to pay for the clumsiness, stupidity, lack of forethought, and just plain rotten luck of its mother? Isn't that more consistent with what Steve has been peddling? Ditto for rape and abortion, of course. Consistency is important.

You don't really want me on your side, Steve, trust me.

And yet he demands of me, "How can you always advocate for the rights, freedom, and liberties of everyone yet exclude the most innocent and defenseless among us?" More stolen concepts. "Again I ask who will defend and advocate for the rights of the innocent baby, will you?"

Of course if the rights of an innocent baby were truly involved, I would defend them. I have written more than almost anybody about the way the U.S. government murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent children by blockading Iraq. If it's a non-sapient item of a woman's property I'm being pushed into sacrificing her rights for, then forget it.

Look: as a result of two or three billion years of evolution, we are all disposed to see young critters—baby chicks, little bunnies, puppy dogs and kittens as cute, to be protective toward them, to feel pity for them. We don't perceive our own young any differently. We see their great big blue eyes, their tiny button noses, their little bitty toes and fingers, and something goes all mushy deep inside the best of us.

A fetus does look a lot like the human baby it might potentially become. That doesn't mean it's sapient or has rights. As Ayn Rand observed, to sacrifice an actuality—a living, breathing, thinking, wholly formed and finished human female—to a mere potentiality is obscene.

A sapient organism has to get past things like that in order to survive, not build a whole moral or political philosophy around it. Pioneer kids learned to do it, and farm kids still learn the same thing today. Hunting taught me that there's nothing more delicious than a fawn (sorry, Bambi) and my favorite Italian dinner is veal Marsala.

Experience has taught me that abortions sometimes save lives.

I have long thought—but seldom said, out of courtesy to friends who disagree with me—that passionate opposition to a woman's right to control her body and all of its products is the result of nothing more—exactly like evolution denial and animal rights advocacy—than sloppy thinking. Our friend Steve has failed to convince me otherwise.

Indeed, he appears to have made my case for me.

What's worse, whenever you try to assign rights to entities that don't possess them, you inevitably water down the rights of those who do—which may, of course, be the goal of at least some of the players.

But probably not Steve.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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