Dear Austin Petersen, Personhood is the Ultimate Liberty Issue


Dear Austin,

As a Libertarian Presidential Candidate, I know you’re busy with a lot of interviews and meetings with conservative media and voters looking for a way out of the coming Trump/Hillary nightmare, but I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to you and try to iron out some of the wrinkles in your pro-life messaging.

See, protecting life is an utterly non-negotiable issue for a slew of Libertarians as well as Republicans, and polls show that the nation as a whole is moving in an anti-abortion direction, with the highly-libertarian Millennial generation leading the way. Many of us flatly refuse to support anyone who won’t fight for the right to life, no matter how much we might agree on other things.

I think you’re on the right track with the life issue, and that’s incredibly important for the sake of moving the historically pro-choice Libertarian Party (LP) that way. Your stance on this issue could impact the future of the LP well beyond 2016, and to me that’s something worth fighting for.

At the same time, I want to make the case to you that Personhood is the specific policy goal that libertarians should be working toward. It is by far the most defensible, intellectually consistent, and constitutionally sound approach, and is untouchable from both a moral and legal standpoint.

There’s a serious flaw in pro-choice libertarian logic, and until it is resolved, constitutionalists from across the nation will not rally to the Libertarian Party.

Being personally pro-life while advocating against government bans of abortion leaves one stranded in a moral twilight zone: Unable to capture the trust of either pro-choicers OR pro-lifers.

It’s difficult to defend a viewpoint that holds that abortion is actually murder, but denies its victims the justice that we demand for other murders.

There’s no middle ground on life, and trying to finesse the issue leaves you vulnerable to attack from everyone – the pro-aborts who already aren’t voting for you, and pro-lifers who feel that you aren’t prepared to fight the policy battle we believe is at the heart of the greatest moral atrocity of our age.

What it boils down to is that the states’ rights argument is fine for marriage and drug policy, but it can’t apply to the abortion issue because the Constitution does specifically address the right to life and equal protection in the 14th Amendment – which means it is no longer a state issue.

The logical syllogism goes like this:

It is the responsibility of government to protect the rights of persons.

An unborn child is a person.

Therefore, is it the responsibility of the government to protect unborn children.

Now I understand the desire to push it to the states, to avoid a federal abortion task force of sorts – we’ve already seen too many federal departments stocking military gear and forming SWAT teams. But that concern relates only to enforcement mechanism, not definition.

The Constitution already demands protection of life, liberty, and property by the several states, and we don’t consider that a violation of freedom, but rather a defense of it. The Personhood movement aims to include pre-born persons in the existing federal and state protections already offered to the rest of us.

To state it another way – pun intended – protecting the unborn doesn’t require any expansion of an authoritarian state. Rather, it simply extends the legitimate, existing protection of the state, to the 600,000 Americans who suffer state-sanctioned extermination every year.

Our logic is exactly the same as the logic used against slavery, which is why many modern Personhood activists refer to ourselves as abolitionists.

Now once we define personhood, avenues of enforcement are up for debate. Clearly, criminal justice issues are traditionally better handled at the state level, and it’s reasonable to expect that cases of deliberate abortion will be handled the same way all others are handled.

After all, that’s the whole point – to morally and legally acknowledge that dismembering your 16-week-old unborn child is the same as drowning your five-year-old.

There’s no need to get bogged down in the hypotheticals of conception, implantation, and criminalization. There’s already a system for these things, and that system should be applied equally to all persons, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Practically, that just means applying due process. Pro-lifers generally don’t advocate detailing every single enforcement mechanism at the federal level. We have a justice system in place that is already designed to handle cases of murder and manslaughter, in which the accused has the right to a defense and in which common sense can prevail as both sides are heard by an unbiased jury.

Obviously outlawing abortion won’t stop all of them, but the same is true of other theft, rape, and murder in general – things that even the most strident libertarians think should be illegal.

Laws reflect the morality of the nation, and as the country moves in a pro-life direction, it’s time for our policy to reflect that change.

And that’s where you come into all this.

You represent an opportunity to give the Libertarian Party a much-needed makeover on the life issue. Libertarian theory and activism is already trending toward the pro-life position, with leaders like Dr. Ron Paul, Sen. Rand Paul, and Dr. Tom Woods coming out strongly in support of the most absolute pro-life measures possible.

It’s time Libertarians recognized the advances in prenatal science that have proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that a developing unborn child is indeed a person – destroying the pivotal argument of the infamous Roe decision.

Modernizing the Libertarian Party on the life issue blows the ceiling off of the party for years to come, and allows it to capitalize on the millions of conservatarians who refuse to cast a vote for Donald “Planned Parenthood does very good work” Trump.

You could change the future of the Libertarian Party and the electoral landscape of the nation, if you leave the middle ground behind and join conservatives and libertarians across America who believe that protecting innocent life is the first cause of government, and is therefore the ultimate liberty issue.


Joel Kurtinitis is a columnist for the Des Moines Register, contributing editor for The Liberty Conservative, and operations director for the US Federalist Party.

Joel was a Regional Director for Ron Paul 2012 and served on the State Central Committee of the Republican Party of Iowa. He co-founded Liberty Iowa in the wake of the Paul campaign, and organized the Free DC Project during the government shutdown of 2013.

When not busy setting the virtual world aflame with controversy, Joel is actually an okay guy who enjoys reading, cooking, chess, bluegrass music, and an occasional foray into fiction writing. Joel and his family live in Des Moines, IA.

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