Libertarian defense of Tomi Lahren’s abortion stance doesn’t measure up

By now you may have heard about self-described moderate/conservative/libertarian Blaze TV pundit Tomi Lahren disappointing many of her fans by going on The View to spout nonsensical rhetoric about how “lov[ing] the Constitution” requires her to support legal abortion: “I’m for limited government, so stay out of my guns, and you can stay out of my body as well.”

Live Action’s Cassy Fiano explained the ignorance and inconsistency of Lahren’s stance over the weekend, but now Elizabeth Nolan Brown at the libertarian publication Reason has chimed in to claim that Lahren’s is a “perfectly coherent position,” and “perfectly respectable” too.

How did she do? About as well as libertarians often fare when trying to square the circle of denying rights to preborn individuals while claiming their philosophy is all about individual rights:

There’s only tension between believing abortion should be legal—which is all being “pro-choice” means—and the Constitution’s prescription of “life, liberty, and property” protection for all if you believe that personhood begins at conception. But one needn’t believe this, nor even be a Christian at all, in order to champion conservative political philosophy.

Wrong. First, there’s an objective standard for what qualifies as conservative: conserving the principles upon which America was founded as her Founders understood them. Of course, not every political question is necessarily traceable to something the Founders said or dealt with, but one as big as the right to life definitely is—so much so that upholding it is the very first purpose of government listed in the Declaration of Independence. And not just born life—the Founders’ leading legal influences taught them that the law’s protection applied at the earliest point in pregnancy where the medical knowledge of their time told them a living child was present.

Second, it’s dubious enough to posit a difference between humanity and personhood in a philosophical discussion, but it’s completely out of place in a discussion about constitutional rights. Originalism—which libertarianism supposedly values as much as conservatism does—dictates that constitutional terms carry the meaning their authors intended. In this case, that means “person” as used in the Fourteenth Amendment means “any human being.”

There are plenty of pro-life Americans who believe a blanket ban on abortion is not the best way to end the practice, given how black markets work.

And they would be wrong. Regardless, it’s beside the point, because it’s not the argument made by the person Brown is defending.

Again, this might seem horrific to people who believe that aborting an eight-week old fetus is the exact same as murdering a 2- or 20- or 80-year-old, but that’s a matter of moral or religious perspective.

No more so than any moral claim about violence against anybody else, so what’s your point? Also, while the pro-life and conservative movements can and should welcome good people of a variety of religious perspectives, ultimately the premise that the right to life was endowed on us by a Creator is one of the foundational prerequisites we discussed earlier.

[I]t’s erroneous and unfair to brush aside [Lahren’s] beliefs as simple stupidity, hypocrisy, opportunism, or cowardice.

Is it? Let’s see:

  • Stupidity: Fiano already explained the intellectual shallowness of Lahren’s stance, as have several others recently. If there’s anything her critics have missed, surely Tomi will attempt to prove the validity of her position by releasing a substantive rebuttal in the days to come. Until then, we wait.
  • Opportunism: there are reports that Lahren’s career with the Blaze was coming to an end anyway, and it’s possible that she gave The View the scoop of her abortion thoughts in advance for the express purpose of making a splash with it. When a media figure is losing one niche and looking for another, you can’t ask for much better press than manufactured headlines about being persecuted for a courageous stand on an issue near and dear to prospective future employers.
  • Cowardice: I’d concede that this particular adjective does not seem to apply to Lahren, but it’s obviously true that this is exactly why many others adopt “personally against, legally for” — so they can tepidly stake out a pro-abortion position while disassociating themselves from the act’s moral stigma, or to get partial credit from both sides as reasonable or respectful.

Finally, Brown offers this less-than novel insight:

It’s exactly this kind of reflexive dismissal of differing beliefs and moral gray areas that keeps us locked in the stupidest kind of culture war over abortion, one that manifests in it being the most important litmus test for acceptance into political movements on the right and left and results in a host of high-profile, symbolic battles that all lead back to the same status quo.

She’s right that the abortion battle is locked in a “stupid” status quo, but it’s nonsense to say pro-life rigidity is the reason why. We have made huge strides in the medical and scientific fields since the 1960s regarding the truth about abortion and life in the womb. Unfortunately, progress has come slowly, despite countless opportunities to treat the issue with the moral severity and urgency it demands. Every American, whether in the classroom or on Capitol Hill, needs to realize that science is clearly on the side of life, and each American — elected or not — needs to vote that way, too.

As we continue to learn more each day about the resilience and reality of a baby’s life in the womb, we will continue to fight for each child’s right to life.

Looking back on the above, it seems the pro-life movement actually owes Tomi Lahren some thanks — her comments have provided a valuable springboard to clarify a range of fictions and fallacies which have persisted for far too long.

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