-39 votes

The Fetus as Parasitic Invader: Murray Rothbard on Abortion

The proper groundwork for analysis of abortion is in every man’s absolute right of self-ownership. This implies immediately that every woman has the absolute right to her own body, that she has absolute dominion over her body and everything within it. This includes the fetus. Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to this situation, but the fetus is there by the mother’s freely-granted consent. But should the mother decide that she does not want the fetus there any longer, then the fetus becomes a parasitic “invader” of her person, and the mother has the perfect right to expel this invader from her domain. Abortion should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body.[2] Any laws restricting or prohibiting abortion are therefore invasions of the rights of mothers.


From the Ethics of Liberty, by Murray Rothbard

Just sayin'

Trending on the Web

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Paul stated that the end goal

Paul stated that the end goal is a stateless society, not minarchy.

"In reality the Constitution itself is incapable of what we would like in limiting government, no matter how well written." -From End the Fed

"Governments by their very nature notoriously compete with liberty, even when the stated purpose of establishing a particular government is to protect liberty.

The restraints placed on our government in the Constitution by the Founders did not work." From the Revolution A Manifesto


Practically speaking, he is

Practically speaking, he is not. Which means he is being illogical and inconsistent with his own stated claims. See discussion above.

whyTF is this topic popping up, now, in two separate threads?

well this is how I answered this topic, on the other thread, on purely factual basis alone:

it is utterly ridiculous to call a fetus as a "parasite," or as having a "parasitic" relationship to the 'host' aka, the mother.


yes, I DO know, and I've also seen another thread on the

Submitted by AnCapMercenary on Wed, 09/05/2012 - 20:11. Permalink

same topic; precisely WHY I sarcastically reiterated it, here.

though, seems like post-RNC, it's as if some Bat-signal went up to telegraph 'now it's okay to drive wedge issues! wee!'

seriously, I truly don't know why we can't just all get along simply based on the core tenets of the non-aggression axiom/principle, alone.

of course, that would be an ideal, hopeful scenario. but alas, unfortunately, that is not so, is it?

still doesn't make you or Rothbard's position correct, or a moral one, for that matter.

don't know if you have children, but to generalize pregnancies, all or select, wanted or not, intentional or not, as a "parasite" is first of all, scientifically, and 2ndly, factually wrong.

For a fetus to be a "parasite," or have a "parasitic relationship,"

1. 'It' would have to have an antagonistic (non-mutual) relationship to the host
2. 'It' would have to be a DIFFERENT species
3. 'It' would have to live off of the host, at its expense

Now, ask any woman you know who's reared a child, if she ever thought of her pregnancy in that manner.

Regardless how one describes the state of pregnancy, factually, scientifically, anyone who labels a fetus as having a parasitic relationship to the mother would be 100% wrong, on ALL counts.

1. mother and the fetus, are biologically constantly in contact at all times; completes a bio-feedback circuit/loop
2. obviously both are humans
3. the mother releases and receives hormonal response from the existence of the fetus; hardly "at its expense" as the mother's body is biologically fortified for the purpose of carrying and delivering the child, be it increase in size of the mammary glands, or heightened senses, etc. the mother's biology benefits as well as the fetus'



Yup. I DO know where that's from; a few times that Murray was actually wrong. Hey, no one's perfect.o)


Predictions in due Time...

"Let it not be said that no one cared, that no one objected once it's realized that our liberties and wealth are in jeopardy." - Dr. Ronald Ernest Paul

Sometimes Rothbard isn't so smart

There are a number of things that he's written or said that are just plain old stupid... like this. Therefore, I don't include him on my list of philosophical influences.

"We must therefore state

"We must therefore state that, even from birth, the parental ownership is not absolute but of a “trustee” or guardianship kind. In short, every baby as soon as it is born and is therefore no longer contained within his mother’s body possesses the right of self-ownership by virtue of being a separate entity and a potential adult. It must therefore be illegal and a violation of the child’s rights for a parent to aggress against his person by mutilating, torturing, murdering him, etc. "

It makes perfect sense to me. If you want to "evict" your baby you are responsible to keep it alive or its murder. That's a lot better than we have right now!

"If you want to "evict" your

"If you want to "evict" your baby you are responsible to keep it alive or its murder."

He didn't actually say that at all.
There's a difference between negative and positive rights.

I believe the "its your

I believe the "its your responsibility to keep the baby alive after eviction" is Walter Block's position.

By the same reasoning a 6

By the same reasoning a 6 month old baby is a parasite on its parents. After all, it can no more survive without constant adult care than a fetus can survive without its mother. The only difference is that the baby is an ectoparasite rather than an endoparasite. So Rothbard is making the case for infanticide.

The reality is that as much as I believe in limited, constitutional government and local rule, we as members of the social species Homo Sapiens do in fact have obligations both to our underage children and to our parents.

Yes, Rothbard took his

Yes, Rothbard took his reasoning to its consistent conclusion.


I have happen to lean towards agreeing with him.

"Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.[2] The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.[3] (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)?[4] The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such "neglect" down to a minimum.)"

coffee_sponge's picture

The parent had a right to keep his pants on.

Once he decides to bring a child into the world, he is indeed obligated to provide for that child until the child can reasonably be expected to provide for his or her self.

The child had no voice in whether he would be brought into the world. In a way the parent has exercised his will over the child by unilaterally deciding that it would be conceived. In doing so, the parent has voluntarily entered into a kind of social contract that requires he provide for his child.

We can be free to make our own decisions only to the point we are willing to accept the responsibility those decisions entail. If we want to argue against taking responsibility for our own actions, then we might as well argue against enforcement of contracts too. Ultimately, codified irresponsibility will produce societal breakdown, anarchy, and tyranny.

There can be no personal freedom without personal responsibility. To argue we should have personal freedom without personal responsibility is to argue for personal license. Once you accept license in an attempt to avoid responsibility, you accept the conversion of your rights into privileges, because an over-reaching government declares your responsibilities are divorced from your actions. Once your rights are converted into privileges, the government can restrict or even revoke those privileges. Suddenly you find you are saddled with responsibilities you should not have because they are added to you in spite of your actions.

Personal liberty is possible only in a society that respects and practices morality and responsibility.

I appreciate your thoughtful

I appreciate your thoughtful response. I do however, disagree with you.

"Once he decides to bring a child into the world, he is indeed obligated to provide for that child until the child can reasonably be expected to provide for his or her self."

Based on what principle?

Just as a personal anecdote, I don't take care of my daughter out of obligation. I take care of my daughter because I love her, and because providing for her fills me with joy.

"The child had no voice in whether he would be brought into the world. In a way the parent has exercised his will over the child by unilaterally deciding that it would be conceived. In doing so, the parent has voluntarily entered into a kind of social contract that requires he provide for his child."

Firstly, the decision was not unilateral. There are two people needed for conception (gametes from a male and a female). You say that the parent voluntarily consented to this contract, but also say that the fetus did not consent to being brought into this world. That is an invalid contract. All parties must consent to a contract for it to be valid. You also contend that a child does not have personal responsibility until he or she can be reasonably expected to have it. How can someone who does not have personal responsibility (per your argument) enter into a contract?

Secondly, a social contract? You are arguing FOR a social contract on the DailyPaul? You have just made the argument for a nanny state. This is the same argument that the likes of Obama and Nancy Pelosi use to justify the ever expanding government. This is the argument used for the federal income tax.

" If we want to argue against taking responsibility for our own actions, then we might as well argue against enforcement of contracts too."

Your If..then is not valid. I can take personal responsibility for crapping in my back yard by cleaning up after myself and apologizing to my wife. There was no contract violated by me taking a dump in my yard however, unless of course you are going to invoke a "social contract." http://christopherburg.com/2011/10/10/social-contract/

"Ultimately, codified irresponsibility will produce societal breakdown, anarchy, and tyranny."

Well which is it, anarchy or tyranny? Tyranny is brought through government force and authoritarians. Anarchy is the absence of a state.

The likes of Lenin and Mao made arguments from the benefit for "society" angle. I believe that is also the arguments that most Democratic politicians use.

"There can be no personal freedom without personal responsibility."

This begs the question, but I'll be your Huckleberry.

"To argue we should have personal freedom without personal responsibility"

You are contradicting yourself, unless you are arguing that a baby has no personal freedom. If that is the case, then you should have no problem with abortion, since the baby has no personal freedom (as you say, without personal responsibility, there is no personal freedom). You said earlier that a child does not have personal responsibility until they can reasonably expect to have personal responsibility. Since they do not have personal responsibility, they do not have personal freedom (per your argument).

"Personal liberty is possible only in a society that respects and practices morality and responsibility."

This is bunk. Personal liberty is possible right now, in a society full of statists and tyrants. If you are going to wait for society to practice morality and responsibility until you achieve personal liberty for yourself, then you will never achieve it.

what's the purpose of posting this on the DailyPaul??

just wondering. since rothbard wrote this nonsense, science has given us much new evidence proving how much a pre-birth child has characteristics that we usually would use to define "life", beginning very soon after conception. a pre-birth infant is no more a parasite than an apple seed is a parasite to an apple tree. ridiculous !!!!


Rothbard isn't saying that

Rothbard isn't saying that the fetus isn't a person. He is saying, according to the principle of self ownership, that the mother can do to and evict whatever from her body as she chooses.


Duck, run, take cover...

...it's a free thinker (with different opinions no less)

Aaron Russo, Nikola Tesla, Ron Paul, I'm jus' sayin'

In my opinion this is one of

In my opinion this is one of the weaknesses of libertarian philosophy. The philosophy is very good at recognizing and applying the realities of natural law in most circumstances, but it then begins bending and plying to escape the natural fact that the consequence of sex is pregnancy and that there is an inherent and natural responsibility stemming from it.

Granted but....What about the

Granted but....What about the weaknesses on the other side? Should the pregnant mother who has an abortion be punished as a murderer? Should she be punished if she has a risky lifestyle, e.g. smokes water skis, etc. and thus endangers the fetus?

What if we held life in such

What if we held life in such high regard that we did try each abortion before a jury, and we could allow the jury to decide if a crime against life had been committed? Would that not both respect life in a manner worthy of it, and at the same time remove draconian punishments that may not be able to justly deal with the complications surrounding many of these cases? What if in cases of rape and incest we tried the rapist not only for the rape but also for the death of the child if the victim chose to abort,and penalized him for the support of the child if she chose not too?


This sounds like a great way to public shame women who made a PERSONAL decision about their own bodies. No thanks. Men, imagine what it would be like if it was publicly announced that you had gotten a woman pregnant out of wedlock, and then imagine it being around 100 times worse due to the stigma against sexually liberated women and the fact that a deeply personal medical procedure was involved, AND the fact that you would definitely then get death threats AND people would start calling you a "baby killer". Sound like fun? Well, I suggest you try it yourself.

They made a personal decision

They made a personal decision about someone elses body too, this is encroachment. And in the case of consensual sex, the resultant pregnancy is a consequence that people are aware of and are responsible for. Turns out this is how life works. Sexually libertated? By that do you mean liberated from the natural consequences of sex which is pregnancy? That is unnatural and any policy based on that premise would be illegitimate as it flies in the face of natural law. I never said that the woman would be soley to blame. But the fact of the matter is, if we are going to hold life in a high regard then this is how you would do it in a way that would also tend to the individual circumstances of each case.

Incorrect, it is about their

Incorrect, it is about their own body alone. Regardless of whether you consider an embryo to be life, you must acknowledge that it is tied to the woman's body, and is therefore part of it. One body.

Yes, pregnancy is a possible consequence of sex. However, this does not mean that sex MUST entail a pregnancy. This is why birth control methods like condoms and "the pill" exist. These methods, though, sometimes fail. Condoms break. Sometimes a pregnancy occurs in spite of the pill. Abortions exist in case of an accidental pregnancy that is undesired by the woman. It is not good for the life of a woman to be a parent when she is not willing or ready to raise a child. It is also a poisonous environment for a child to grow up.

Pregnancy is also a very challenging process. It's not exactly a walk in the park to carry a child to term.

Pro-life libertarians like to talk about their position being natural due to right to life. What about right to the woman's life? Since an embryo cannot properly be called a life, as a potential person is not the same as an actual person, we must value the actual person's life more highly. Why doesn't a woman have a right to decide what happens inside her body? Why does she not have the right to terminate a physical process that will interrupt her life for 9 months and maybe longer?

If you do agree that a woman has the right to control the physical processes of her own body, then why do you want to put her in court? Is this because you do not like the decisions that some women choose to make and therefore wish to publicly shame them for these choices? How is taking women who want control over their own bodies to court over their personal choices in any way libertarian? I just don't understand it.

And by the way, we both know that the "unnatural" argument is bogus. If you opposed any human action that opposes the "default" state, you would oppose modern medicine, the industrial revolution, and even the agricultural revolution. The "an embryo is life" argument is really the best one coming from the pro-life side, I think you should stick with that one.

There are some axiomatic

There are some axiomatic principles of natural law that cannot be overcome by technology, the creation of life and the causing of death are two of them.

There are methods by which the risk of pregnancy can be reduced to zero, and if people are willing to take those measures then they can have all the sex they want and not have to concern themselves with having to destroy an inadvertantly created life.

To claim that accidental pregnancy due to consentual sex gives one person the right to terminate the life of another because their own actions began a natural process that they were fully aware of as a risk and caused an inconvenience is absurdly irresponsible.

Murray N. Rothbard, Economist

Murray Rothbard is an excellent economist. If you want a good roadmap to the economy, take his words to heart. This is an issue outside the scope of his expertise.

This is like getting medical advice from an automechanic... I don't feel well this morning... So change your blood and replace your spark plugs... What do you mean you don't have sparkplugs? I got my degree at Apex technical school and I say you do.


Is it a parasite?


If unwanted

If it is unwanted, sperm is a parasite, yes. For example: Rape. And no, the female body does not "automatically shut that whole process down."

Vulgar. Remember, this guy is

Vulgar. Remember, this guy is assuming anarchism so all of his reasoning flows backwards from this. Of course in anarchy restrictions on abortio csnnot be enforced. The liberal arguments "right to privacy" are more convincing.

Ventura 2012

so, is rothbard GOD?

i'm not buying it!

Christians should not be warmongers! http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance87.html

Completely false premise

The baby isn't a parasite if it was created inside the body by the body. The mother's body is designed to grow babies. Baby creation is a natural, normal biological function, and the healthier the body, the more likely the baby grows. Parasites prefer weak, sickly bodies, and invade from outside.

The bottom line is that baby creating is inconvenient for some, and so they'll demonize the baby to justify abortion. The baby is not the problem here, being the natural, normal biological end product of a very normal, predictable, controllable bodily action.

"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice." -- Thomas Paine

It is convincing, but sad.

It is sad that, in order for this logic to be complete, the mother would have to believe that the embryo is an invader.

That would thus be a failure of humanity: that humankind would be led to lose empathy for even their own children, and consider them invaders of their flesh, and lose sight of them as persons.

I do not believe that embryos are parasites, but are lives and persons with their own set of rights.

I believe in the freedom to be what we choose to be.

Cyril's picture

It is not even convincing to

It is not even convincing to me.

For the premises are based on seeing the "invader" as an asset, artifact, that man would have created out of free will.

Which is wrong and false : we still haven't found the secret of creating LIFE as complex as ours out of random matter.

We are only THE SUPPORT of life created by something/someone else ABOVE us.

Bear !

"Cyril" pronounced "see real". I code stuff.


"To study and not think is a waste. To think and not study is dangerous." -- Confucius