Front Page Titles (by Subject) Liberalism, Rights, and Abortion - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Liberalism, Rights, and Abortion - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Liberalism, Rights, and Abortion
“Abortion and Inalienable Rights in Classical Liberalism.” American Journal of Jurisprudence 20 (1975): 62–80.
An immense gulf affecting human life and liberty separates the inalienable rights doctrine of classical liberalism from the “unlimited rights” doctrine of such utilitarian liberals as John Stuart Mill. The crucial difference appears in the different responses to the question of whether the individual has a right to suicide, selling himself into permanent slavery, or choosing abortion. The pro-abortion argument, it is argued, is incompatible with the inalienable rights foundation of American classical liberalism as voiced by Locke and others.
Where should one who believes in inalienable rights stand on abortion? To what extent is the theory of inalienable rights justifiable on this and other issues? The author distinguishes the inalienable rights doctrine of the classical liberals, Hobbes and Locke, from the utilitarian liberals' doctrine that individual action may be restrained only for the sake of protecting others. John Stuart Mill expresses this latter understanding of freedom and unlimited rights in The Subjection of Women: “The modern conviction...is that things in which the individual is the person directly interested, never go right but as they are left to his own discretion; and that any regulation of them by authority, except to protect the rights of others, is sure to be mischievous.” This notion of unlimited rights for the individual contrasts with inalienable rights, which erect civil society on the foundations of individual consent but also limit the scope of legitimate consent. This limitation forbids an individual to alienate (that is, consent away or deny by deed or word) his inalienable rights. “Civil society exists to protect the inalienable rights of its citizens.” Although not alienable these rights may be lost “by destroying a citizen's being or humanness or both.”
In the framework of inalienable rights one may not do whatever one pleases. One can do to oneself or others only what one can justify in terms of inalienable rights. Thus, the pro-abortion argument is invalid when it argues that a woman has a right to do with her own body as she pleases so long as her actions directly affect no one else. The public policy of a regime governed by classical liberal inalienable rights would ban abortion as well as suicide and slave-contracts.