You Probably Don’t Understand Gary Johnson’s Position On Abortion

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Throughout his campaign for President of the United States, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson has been attacked by the right for being pro-choice. Many see Johnson as no better than Hillary Clinton on the issue of abortion. After all, Johnson says in nearly every interview that being libertarian means supporting a woman’s right to choose. However, a more in-depth analysis of his public statements about abortion both during this campaign and in the past make it fairly clear that those who dismiss Johnson with a pro-choice rubber stamp simply don’t understand his stance.

First off, Johnson has made it clear that he supports state bans on late-term abortions. According to his campaign website, he also supports parental notification and counseling requirements. Johnson claims to be personally pro-life and morally opposed to abortion, although he believes the state should not ban the procedure until after the fetus is viable outside of the womb.

While he has not stated as much this election cycle, presumably as a part of his strategy to attract moderates, Johnson believes that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Before the site was restructured, Our America Initiative–Johnson’s political advocacy nonprofit–offered a strong rebuke of Roe v. Wade on its website.

“Judges should be appointed who will interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning. Any court decision that does not follow this original meaning of the Constitution should be revisited. That is particularly true of decisions such as Roe vs. Wade, which have expanded the reach of the Federal government into areas of society never envisioned in the Constitution. With the overturning of Roe vs Wade, laws regarding abortion would be decided by the individual states.” – Gary Johnson’s Our America Initiative

Many of you might still be concerned that this view would allow some states to have legal abortion, and you would be right. However, that is not necessarily a sign of anything more than consistency. As a supporter of the 10th Amendment, Johnson has to believe that abortion is a states’ rights issue. Even the fiercely pro-life Ron Paul has a similar view on abortion. Like Johnson, Dr. Paul believes that the Constitution does not address abortion and thus leaves the issue completely up to the states.

“Under the 9th and 10th amendments, all authority over matters not specifically addressed in the Constitution remains with state legislatures. Therefore the federal government has no authority whatsoever to involve itself in the abortion issue. So while Roe v. Wade is invalid, a federal law banning abortion across all 50 states would be equally invalid.” – Ron Paul 2006

For better or worse, Johnson sees the opportunity the two major parties have created by choosing the most disliked candidates in history and is trying to court voters by driving on the “big six lane highway” between the two major parties. His public statements during the campaign have merely been a reflection of that strategy. If we really want to know how Johnson feels about the issues, we should examine his entire record and view his campaign statements with his strategy in mind.

I am not endorsing Johnson’s strategy or his position on abortion, but I believe voters actually
deserve to understand them. It is too important not to. Those painting Johnson as a champion of abortion are being unfair and intellectually dishonest. There are many things coming from the Johnson/Weld camp to dislike but it is clear that they will be the most liberty friendly ticket on the ballot this November.

Even if abortion is your top priority issue, supporting Johnson should not be out of the question. In all honesty, he might be the most pro-life candidate left in the race. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has been anything consistent on the issues. As the Washington Post has pointed out, Trump once took 5 different positions on abortion in 3 days and has a history of not only being pro-choice but also of supporting partial birth abortion and even once hosting a dinner honoring a former president of the extremely far left NARAL (National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws).

I don’t like how political Gary Johnson has become with his rhetoric, but I don’t feel like we are in a place where that kind of complaint should take a front seat in the decision-making process. We don’t have the option of being that choosy. If you are a pro-life voter, you can take a gamble and hope Trump doesn’t flip flop on abortion like he did on the minimum wage. I will vote for Johnson with the hope that this issue will go back to the states where it belongs.

Joshua is a graduate student majoring in Public Administration at The University of Alabama. He is the Vice President of his campus' chapters of Young Americans for Liberty and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and he is the campus leader of UA Students for Concealed Carry. In addition to writing for The Liberty Conservative, he is an opinions columnist for the University of Alabama student newspaper, The Crimson White.

  • Zigman

    Thanks for the article. I did not understand Johnson’s position on this.

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