Human beings have the right to make life or death decisions.
This is a political statement, and one of fundamental import in matters of liberty for the US. To state a matter of fundamental principle, I agree that humans *can* and to a large degree, *should* retain the liberty to make them under particular circumstances. In a society of law, which is built like ours, for a fairly low common denominator (it seems low to me, but is it really?) that set of circumstances are pretty narrow, and probably rightly should be.
If we were to fall into a feudal state of affairs, we would be a great deal more free in principle, but less free from local tyranny. Nobody would much care if one peasant killed another peasant except as the dead peasant was in debt to somebody who might want to collect from the killer. But in America, we non-propertied people aren't so free as to kill each other without consequence. This is done for the peace of mind and comfort of the millions.
However, we can beat our kids and we can abort our fetuses. Within reason. We can defend ourselves with deadly force, and we can go out and create as many babies as we please. Within reason. So yeah, we can basically exercise our inherent abilities at the life and death level.
I've always asserted that we also have the right to punt that responsibility over to the state. But I'm not so sure about that any longer. And perhaps I was wrong in the first place. Implied in punting is that we give up our own right - we cede the right to the government. And I think that is not a proper libertarian agreement. If I give a cop the proxy of using deadly force to defend my life, it shouldn't mean that I should be restrained from doing so.
This is important because I think there should be some consistency at a deep level which thoughtful people know we don't have.
Some people think that the state has every right to kill (as a proxy) for what is determined to be a capital offense. Some people think the state has no right. I'm in the middle, and have always been depending on what I think the state's fitness is for recieving the proxy. But it begs the fundamental question of justice, and what I am beginning to see is that some people think that individuals are incapable of delivering justice, whereas others think that the state is incapable of delivering justice.
Isn't that odd? See I think I am not too far off when I suggest that people who oppose the death penalty because they find the state too brutal, are far less likely to accept that individual victims or designated survivors are capable of righteous revenge.
I also think I'm not too far off when I suggest that people who assert individual rights are quite uncomfortable with the state preparing in every way to facilitate being a proxy. Which is to say if I've got the right to abort and the right to punt that decision, what's wrong with the state making it easy for me?
Ultimately it falls to a judgment of other individuals' fitness to carry out the deed and their fitness to establish a proxy.
And pacifists don't count, because in the end, what are you going to do to make me change my mind if I'm intransigent?
I say all of that because I think that some questions of scale need to be accounted for. But exactly what that scale is makes all the difference. Who can judge an individual, a crowd, a society? How tightly must power be scrutinized and at what level? These are the factors that muddy up the morality.
And so finally I want to say this, just to wreck your mind for the afternoon. Isn't abortion worse than torture? OK put it this way - if you torture 3 adults for the comfort and piece of mind of 1 million, is it OK? What if you abort half a million fetuses for the comfort and piece of mind of 1 million?