HISTORY OF ABORTION IN THE LIBERTARIAN PARTY PLATFORM

The Libertarian Platform has evolved over the years.  From 1972 to 1980 the platform merely supported “termination of pregnancy”. In 1982 the L.P.  explicitly added the word “abortion”. From 1982 until 2008 the platform had a “Women’s Rights and Abortion” plank that opposed discrimination on the basis of sex and included a detailed pro-choice stand on abortion. Starting in 1996 “moderates” seeking to appeal to a wider base (i.e., abortion prohibitionist conservative Republicans!) became more aggressive in the party and joined up with the tiny minority of abortion prohibitionist libertarians. There were more challenges to the existence of the plank,  cuts to the plank and even the removal of all mentions of women or woman in the platform.

Since 2008 there has been only a one sentence plank on “abortion” – which is overly sensitive to the feelings of abortion prohibitionists – and abortion prohibitionists are trying to remove even that!  It reads:

Abortion: Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

For a full history of the platforms see LPedia’s list of LP Platforms. For an outline of Pro-Choice Libertarians efforts to protect the abortion plank see the “Our History” page.  Below is the history of the most important changes to the platform.

1972 Platform (first Libertarian Party platform)

4.3 OVERPOPULATION

…     We further support the repeal of all laws restricting voluntary birth control or voluntary termination of pregnancies during their first hundred days…

1974197619781980 Platforms

POPULATION

…We further support the repeal of all laws restricting voluntary birth control or the right of the woman to make a personal moral choice regarding the termination of pregnancy…

1982198419861988 Platforms (where abortion first explicitly mentioned)

WOMEN’S RIGHTS
        Recognizing that each person must be the sole and absolute owner of his or her own body, we support the right of women to make a personal choice regarding the termination of pregnancy. We oppose the undermining of that right via laws requiring consent of the pregnant woman’s parents, consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, or compulsory provision of indoctrination on medical risks or fetal development. However, we also oppose all tax funding for abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion. We also condemn state-mandated abortions.

1994 Platform (when some important language was added)

19. Women’s Rights and Abortion
     We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as protective labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women. We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.
     Recognizing that each person must be the sole and absolute owner of his or her own body, we support the right of women to make a personal choice regarding the termination of pregnancy or regarding voluntary surrogacy arrangements. We oppose the undermining of the right via laws requiring consent of the pregnant woman’s parents, consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, or compulsory provision of indoctrination on medical risks or fetal development. In addition, we oppose all restrictions on the sale of menstruation-inducing contragestive pills, such as RU 486, which block fertilized eggs from attaching themselves to the womb. However, we also oppose all tax funding for abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion. We also condemn state-mandated abortions.
     We oppose the fetal protection doctrine under which the state could require prenatal testing, require Caesarian births, require fetal surgery, require force feeding of the mother, jail pregnant substance abusers, bar home births, and bar pregnant women from working in unhealthy places and which would hold a woman legally liable — because of her diet or personal behavior — for having a damaged or deformed child. Under this doctrine, women could also be held liable for not aborting a damaged or deformed fetus.

19961998 Platforms (some important language removed; first mention of government keeping out of issue)

20. Women’s Rights and Abortion
We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as protective labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women. We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.
Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that libertarians can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept entirely out of the question, allowing all individuals to be guided by their own consciences. We oppose all restrictions on the sale of RU 486, and on the sale of menstruation-inducing contragestive pills, which block fertilized eggs from attaching themselves to the womb. We oppose legislation restricting or subsidizing women’s access to abortion or other reproductive health services; this includes requiring consent of the prospective father, waiting periods, and mandatory indoctrination on fetal development, as well as Medicaid or any other taxpayer funding. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion. We also condemn state-mandated abortions
It is the right and obligation of the pregnant woman, not the state, to decide the desirability or appropriateness of prenatal testing, Caesarean births, fetal surgery, voluntary surrogacy arrangements, and/or home births.

20002002 Platforms (further cuts to plank)

20. Women’s Rights and Abortion
    We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex. We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as protective labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women. We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.
Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question.
We condemn state-funded and state-mandated abortions. It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.
It is the right and obligation of the pregnant woman, not the state, to decide the desirability or appropriateness of prenatal testing, Caesarean births, fetal surgery, voluntary surrogacy arrangements, and/or home births.

2004 Platform (a complicated new format confuses the issues)

20. Women’s Rights and Abortion
     The Issue:  Recognizing that abortion is a very sensitive issue and that people, including libertarians, can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe the government should be kept out of the question.  We condemn state-funded and state-mandated abortions.  It is particularly harsh to force someone who believes that abortion is murder to pay for another’s abortion.
     The Principle:  We hold that individual rights should not be denied or abridged on the basis of sex.  It is the right and obligation of the pregnant woman, not the state, to decide the desirability or appropriateness of prenatal testing, Caesarean births, fetal surgery, voluntary surrogacy arrangements and/or home births.
     Solutions:  We oppose all laws likely to impose restrictions on free choice and private property or to widen tyranny through reverse discrimination.
      Transitional Action:  We call for repeal of all laws discriminating against women, such as protective labor laws and marriage or divorce laws which deny the full rights of men and women.

2006 Platform (women’s rights subsumed under the new, politically correct “sexuality and gender” plank)

The sparsely attended 2006 Libertarian Party convention in Portland, Oregon was used by “moderates” dedicated to deleting much of the hardcore Libertarian Party platform and replacing it with more general language that would not offend voters or potential candidates.  Their primary vehicle for doing this was by adding to the party bylaws the “token deletion system” where each delegate got five tokens which they could use to vote to delete any platform plank they did not like.  If a plank received a sufficient percentage of token votes, the body of delegates would give it an up-or-down vote, with a mere majority deciding its fate.

I.8 Reproductive Rights
The Issue:  The tragedies caused by unplanned, unwanted pregnancies are aggravated and sometimes created by government policies of censorship, restriction, regulation and prohibition.
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.
The Principle:  Individual rights should not be denied nor abridged on the basis of sex, age, dependency, or location.  Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for other people’s abortions, nor should any government or individual force a woman to have an abortion.  It is the right and obligation of the pregnant woman regardless of age, not the state, to decide the desirability or appropriateness of prenatal testing, Caesarean births, fetal surgery, voluntary surrogacy arrangements and/or home births.
Solutions:  We oppose government actions that either compel or prohibit abortion, sterilization or any other form of birth control.  Specifically we condemn the practice of forced sterilization of welfare recipients, or of mentally retarded or “genetically defective” individual.  We support the voluntary exchange of goods, services or information regarding human sexuality, reproduction, birth control or related medical or biological technologies.  We oppose government laws and policies that restrict the opportunity to choose alternatives to abortion.
Transitional Action:  We support an end to all subsidies for childbearing or child prevention built into our present laws.

2008 Platform (whole platform gutted, including abortion details; words “women/woman” written out of platform, replaced by the nebulous term “gender”)

In 2008 with “moderates” promoting former congressman Bob Barr for President, and wealthy foreign interventionist Wayne Allen Root organizing a strong pro-Israel faction, the Bylaws and Platform committee issued a joint report which facilitated the creation of a greatly pared down platform.  Thus the new abortion plank read:

1.4 Abortion
   Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.

2010 –  201220142016 – 2018 Platform Abortion Plank debates

During Libertarian national conventions abortion prohibitionist have continued their machinations. Using the token deletion system they managed to bring the abortion plank to an up-or-down vote at least twice.  In 2010 the plank received 77 votes; in 2012 74 votes; in 2014 100 votes; in 2016 439 votes; in 2018 608 votes.  The last two votes resulted in the plank being brought to the floor and the body of delegates voting to keep the plank.

Before the 2016 Convention there were questionable machinations related to the platform committee and especially the abortion plank: the appointment of the party’s secretary Alicia Mattson as chair of the committee (she is a well known to be anti-abortion and perhaps even an abortion prohibitionist); the use of an unscientific online survey flooded by anti-abortionists which was used justify removing wording calling for the state to stay out of the issue; and platform committee attempts to remove the “keep the government out” language and add language against government funding of abortion. These moves are widely seen as attempts to make the party appear anti-abortion and to attract Republican abortion prohibitionists.

During convention business the platform came up for deletion twice.  First during the bi-yearly vote on deletion of planks and later during the platform committee report.  Both times members swiftly voted down deletions or changes.

However, the vote on Platform Committee Aaron Starr’s proposal that the platform suspend the rules to delete the plank was very close: 194 FOR suspension (mostly people who wanted removal) and 169 AGAINST (mostly those who wanted to keep it). Since the 194 vote was less than the 2/3 of voting members needed to suspend the rule and vote, the attempt to delete the plank failed.  The body then voted to table further discussion on the abortion plank and move on, keeping the plank.
vote-on-platform-deleted-2016

Nevertheless, the whole platform drama over two days convinced pro-choice libertarians that it was necessary to ramp up a more concerted effort to educate libertarians about womens’ right to abortion, end the bi-yearly assaults on the plank and strengthen it to oppose the many state laws and regulations that currently make abortions more expensive and difficult to obtain in a timely manner.

In the months before the 2018 Libertarian Party national convention in New Orleans, pro-military interventionist Aaron Starr again wangled his way on to the Platform Committee, along with his wife. The Platform Committee chair Caryn Ann Harlos was a former anti-abortion activist who originally entered the party under an assumed name while announcing her goal was removing the plank.

Despite the lack of interest of most of the committee in removing the plank, Starr and one or two others again harassed the committee to propose changes to the plank that would make it less pro-choice. This year they were less successful than in 2016 and their proposals were vetoed. The committee chair Harlos did not make significant efforts on their behalf due to pro-choicers ongoing suspicious about and protests of her anti-abortion strategy.

Pro-Choice libertarians again organized at the convention, with a display table in the lobby, literature, buttons and dozens of supporters of women’s abortion rights talking with the hundreds of delegates. However, anti-choice individuals – some allegedly using “deletion tokens” they solicited from others, found in the garbage or even bought – again were successful in gathering enough “tokens” to put the abortion plank to an up or down vote before the body. This time they totaled 608 tokens. The body quickly and decisively voted to keep the abortion plank. Many pro-choicers are fed up with the unnecessary token system being used to publicize a tiny minorities’ opposition to this one issue and want the token system removed from the convention procedures.

v. 7/15/18

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