As of late, there has been a growing movement in the United States calling for a "Contract from America", a play on the 1994 Republican "Contract with America" in which the Republican party laid out several promises they would attempt to enact should they be elected. The contract lays out three specific promises, those of individual liberty, limited government, and economic freedom.
However in addition to these three promises, I’ve seen many conservatives calling for additional promises, two in particular being an end to abortion and an end to gay marriage. The reason these additional "promises" are sought is because many conservatives are looking at the tea party movement as a way to vault them back into power. But what they don’t realize is that these additional promises are contrary to the actual purpose of the tea party movement.
The idea of the tea party movement is to seize back power from the Federal government that they do not legitimately have. Basically what this means is that no government at the Federal, State, or local level has the authority to tell any person what they can or cannot, must or must not do.
Instead the government is established for the purpose of protecting the rights of the people, among other purposes. A criminal or civil law is considered legitimate when its purpose is to prevent one person from violating the rights of another.
For example the Constitution says, by way of the Fourteenth Amendment, that only the State has the authority to take a person’s life but only after proper due process has been taken:
…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…1
Now the legitimacy of capital punishment has been debated for centuries, and I’m not going to go into it here, but I think we can all agree that one person taking the life of another is not a legitimate action as it violates the rights of the person whose life was taken.
The only time that the taking of a person’s life is considered legitimate is when it is to prevent that person from taking someone else’s life — i.e. lethal force is considered legitimate when your life or someone else’s life is in danger.
So let’s look at the issues of gay marriage and abortion and see whether they would live or fall under the idea that government is to protect rights.
Would allowing two homosexual men or women to marry violate the rights of any other person in the city or state where the marriage occurred? Absolutely not, and I challenge any person who feels differently to explain how their rights are violated or infringed by two gay men or gay women getting married, along with what rights are violated.
The legal prohibition, however, of two individuals of the same gender from entering into the civil union of marriage is an infringement upon the rights of the two individuals seeking to become married. As such, any law preventing two gay men or two gay women from becoming legally married is not a legitimate law, and any such constitutional ban, whether at the state or federal level, is not a legitimate passage of the constitution.
Now what of the issue with regard to abortion?
One thing upon which I believe everyone across the spectrum of abortion opinions can agree is this: with regard to the end of seeing abortions come to an end in the United States, legislation and government is not the means to accomplishing this end.
As Harry Browne (b. 1933, d. 2006) wrote in an article published in 1998:
To one side we say: we will not let the government impose its way upon you. To the other side we say: if you want to reduce abortions, there are much better ways than by depending on the government — because it will only disappoint you.2
Really the libertarian approach to abortion is about being hands off. The group Pro-Choice Libertarians claims on their web site they are for people "who want to make sure the Libertarian Party stays defacto ‘pro-choice’ — or anti-prohibition — on the abortion issue." They clarify this position, "we do not want [the government] prohibiting (or mandating) abortion".
Other libertarians take decidedly "pro-choice" positions on the libertarian stance of ownership of one’s body and control over the decisions related to their body. Ayn Rand, author of the best-selling novel Atlas Shrugged, said
An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn).
the termination of pregnancy by the induced removal of an embryo or fetus (that is incapable of survival outside the body of the woman) which results in the death of the embryo/fetus.
and further state that
A fetus does not have a right to be in the womb of any woman, but is there by her permission. This permission may be revoked by the woman at any time, because her womb is part of her body…
What applies to a fetus, also applies to a physically dependent adult. If an adult…must survive by being connected to someone else, they may only do so by the voluntary permission of the person they must be connected to. There is no such thing as the right to live by the efforts of someone else, i.e., there is no such thing as the right to enslave.
They further clarify the difference between children and the unborn by way of physiological dependency. A child is physiologically independent of the mother, and the child’s survival is dependent upon the same factors determining the mother’s survival. If the child’s mother were to not survive, the child may still have a chance at survival: the child’s life is not dependent in whole, only in part, upon the mother.
However, an unborn’s survival is dependent in whole upon the mother. As such, it does not have any physiological independence, and as such, the dependency necessary for the unborn’s survival exists only so long as the the mother allows it to exist. Any law forcing this dependency to continue against the mother’s will violates her rights.
Now of course I personally believe that as a matter of common sense a woman should not have "conception to birth" access to abortions.
And common sense is another matter that also needs to be reintroduced into society. For example, the Constitution says that a KKK member has the right to appear at a rally for the NAACP and protest in opposition. Common sense, however, says that it would not be a good idea.
And while it is legitimately a woman’s right, in line with what was discussed above, to at any point terminate the dependency the unborn places upon her, common sense calls for a a line to be drawn at some point based on the potential for the unborn to survive independently of the mother, and the laws of most states have already drawn this line for us.