A Response To The Pro-Choice Thought Experiment


Joe Kwasniak, October 26, 2017

The official libertarian party platform maintains that the government has no right to make a medical decision on behalf of citizens and their chosen medical professionals. Generally, most libertarians will not argue against this. However the party is largely split between pro-life and pro-choice members.

The pro-choice members believe that life does not begin at conception, and that a pregnant woman’s right to make medical choices about her pregnancy are hers alone. She is the owner of her body and the only one who has any right to make decisions regarding the pregnancy.

The pro-life members believe that all lives (pre or post birth) are guaranteed the rights to life, liberty and property. Murder is illegal and ending the life of an unborn person is morally and legally reprehensible.

Most libertarians can understand the arguments for both sides. Although we arrive at different conclusions, we use reason and evidence as our means.

You may have noticed the thought experiment going around the internet that claims pro-lifers aren’t actually pro-life. The gist of this experiment is this: you are in a fertility clinic when the building catches on fire. You are in a room with a 5 year old child and an incubator that contains 1,000 fertilized embryos. Due to present circumstances you are only able to rescue either the child or the incubator.

The point of this experiment is to show that if someone is truly pro-life they would choose the incubator with 1,000 unborn lives rather than the life of the child. However, this is more a play on our emotions than an argument built on logic.

Below is a similar scenario to demonstrate that choosing to save the child does not mean you don’t care about the unborn lives in the incubator:

A murderer has broken into your family home during Thanksgiving. With a gun pointed at you and your relatives, he separates your mother and father to the other side of the room. He then looks at you and says, “I’m going to shoot one of your parents. You have to decide which one lives. Do you want me to shoot your mother, or your father? If you don’t make a choice I will shoot both of them.” So now you make your decision: are you going to murder your mother or father?

Seems like an unfair question and undeserved guilt huh? You don’t want to kill either of your parents. Yet if you pick one, you’ve murdered the other, right? Wrong. The real question being asked is who do you value more? Still a very difficult moral and emotional question, yet choosing to save one or the other means only that you have saved one of them. No one can put the blame of killing on you. Which is exactly the case with the “pro-choice thought experiment”. This is on the murderer, like the fire is responsible for the situation with the child or embryos.

Don’t be fooled by this one-sided guilt trip of an experiment. Choosing to save the life of a child that has already been born is absolutely not the same as choosing to abort an unborn child. It is logical to value the five year old’s life for many reasons. For instance the child will experience immense pain and suffering in the fire. There is no guarantee that those embryos would survive until birth. Choosing to rescue a child that has made it past birth, instead of 1000 unborn embryos, is in no way morally equivalent to being comfortable with abortion.

This thought experiment was specifically designed to make you feel guilty for not saving the 1,000 embryos- just like the situation described above. Saving one of your parents in a hostage situation is not the same as murdering the other parent. Tell people that you would choose to save the little boy/girl, and explain to them why their little logic trap is not in fact proof that one supports abortion. Maybe even share this article with them.

All issues should be decided based on what allows for the most freedom and justice. As noted above, this is precisely the way libertarians look at abortion, despite the division within our ranks. By examining the validity of this thought experiment, we are able to provide a prime example of how manipulation works, as opposed to sound logic. The intention here was not necessarily to take a side, but to point out that whatever your belief may be, it should be based on reason. As long as we allow ourselves to be emotionally duped, rather than grounded in philosophy, violating our rights is nothing but a matter of time.


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The author’s views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Ask A Libertarian Team or its followers.


4 thoughts on “A Response To The Pro-Choice Thought Experiment

  1. Helpful information. Fortunate me I found your web site unintentionally, and I am stunned why this coincidence didn’t happened in advance! I bookmarked it.


  2. Great article. I’m pro-life except in a medical risk situation. I came to the similiar conclusion that since the 5 year old would experience pain and the theoretical (to be born) children wouldn’t that the choice would have to be the 5 year old to live. Excellent exposition of the arguments.


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