As the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president, Dr. Jo Jorgensen has an interesting perspective to share. She is a professor, mother, grandmother and long-time principled libertarian. She stands in stark contrast to Trump and Biden on a range of issues. But her campaign lacks moral clarity on a key one: abortion.
In an interview with The Libertarian Republic’s Gary Doan, Jorgensen responded to a question about running as a pro-life candidate:
I am not going to feature abortion, whether pro-choice, pro-life…Because there’s something like 2% of the population, where that’s their number one voting issue. Something like 80% of Americans thinks that abortion should be okay in the first three months. It just seems like for the most part that’s been set aside for more urgent things…And in fact…right now I just say I support the party platform.
I was incredibly disappointed to read Jorgensen’s response for a few reasons. First, abortion is the gravest moral issue of our time. It is the leading cause of death in America. In 2017, there were more than 860,000 abortions performed. Heart disease was the second leading cause of death, taking the lives of more than 647,000 people. To brush aside the gravity of abortion because it’s only a top concern for two percent of the population is tragic.
Jorgensen appealed to popular support for abortion in her answer. But libertarianism isn’t a philosophy that appeals to majorities. If we went through the list of Jorgensen’s positions, I’m sure we would find many of her views to be unpopular with the public. But one benefit of political campaigns is that they can be used as a tool to change people’s minds.
Libertarians or people of any political persuasion shouldn’t walk away from a debate just because their position is at odds with a majority of voters. This assumes, of course, that Jorgensen is right and most people are not concerned with how the law treats abortion. Yet, 49 percent of people call themselves pro-life, and I’m sure if the issue were presented as a matter of life-or-death more often, it would grow in importance.
Fundamentally, Jorgensen isn’t pro-life. And that’s the major sticking point. Because if she were, popular opposition wouldn’t dissuade her from advocating for the unborn. This presents a problem for many pro-life people, including myself. It also poses a political problem for Jorgensen.
I think it’s difficult for Jorgensen to assert any moral authority in criticizing Trump and Biden—two candidates that lack a moral compass—if she’s unable to oppose ending a human being’s life in the womb.
For those who call themselves pro-choice, this is obviously not an issue. However, I believe the pro-life position is consistent with libertarianism. For the people that` are pro-life but are taking a practical approach and supporting Jorgensen, they’ve offered two defenses: 1) we have to change the culture first, and 2) nothing happens on abortion no matter who is in office. In short—why bother?
In regards to culture, I agree we need more people to embrace the sanctity of human life. However, Jorgensen, at this point, isn’t interested in helping usher in such a culture change. For good or ill, presidents can move the needle on an issue. So can presidential candidates. A passionate defense of life in the midst of a campaign could spark a culture change—one that’s widespread or even in the hearts of a committed few. As it stands now, Jorgensen’s campaign wouldn’t accomplish either.
As for the second defense, I’d offer an imperfect analogy: why should libertarians care about Jorgensen’s campaign since election after election libertarians lose and nothing changes? Their reason, I would assume, is because they believe supporting Libertarian candidates is the right thing to do regardless of the outcome. I’d offer the same defense of withholding my vote from Jorgensen over her position on abortion. Futile as it may seem, it’s the right thing to do.
My hope is that Jorgensen reevaluates her position because I would be grateful to vote for a Libertarian candidate that believes in the right to life. We need that person now more than ever.