Inquisition for Good Cause – EconLib

One problem with anti-abortion laws is that we can rely on the state to use them as a new tool for invasion of privacy, surveillance and control – just as unconditional abortion leads to the degradation of human life. The Georgia state government wants to prove that the first of these slippery slopes exists. (“Georgia Abortion Restrictions Spark New Debate Over Fetal Parental Claims,” The Wall Street JournalAugust 27, 2022):

Ed Sattler, the bill’s Republican author, said the recognition of fetal personhood is a logical extension of the abortion ban. “If we’re going to protect babies from the violence of abortion at the point of a detectable heartbeat, naturally those protections should apply throughout Georgia law,” he said.

Democrats and some legal scholars said the law opens the door for dozens of local Georgia prosecutors to charge women with murder for taking abortion pills or traveling to abortion clinics in other states.

But the state is benevolent and accommodating: Setzler says pregnant women can be allowed to drive alone in commuter lanes reserved for cars with their fetuses. But here’s the catch:

The state Department of Transportation said the issue will be one for local law enforcement to decide.

According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, parents of an unborn child “with a detectable heartbeat” will be able to claim a personal income tax deduction of $3,000. But again there is a catch:

The department declined to explain how one would provide proof of an unborn child, or what would happen if a woman miscarried after claiming the exemption. The department will answer more questions about the law’s impact on taxes later this year, a spokeswoman said in an email.

This kind of invasion of the “protected domain” (as Friedrich Hayek called it) around each individual and his property is considered illegitimate by much, if not all, of the classical liberal and libertarian tradition. A general, impersonal, abstract principle must be found that both protects private property and allows checkpoints for women’s uteruses—a tall order, although the proliferation of checkpoints and the collapse of the Fourth Amendment have moved some toward this brave new world. In James Buchanan’s constitutional setup, such a rule would require the unanimous consent of all individuals, or be able to obtain it, which is unlikely. Philosopher Robert Nozick developed a Kantian theory of individual rights as strict restrictions against what others, including the state, can do to an individual (Anarchy, State and Utopia, Basic Books, 1974). It is interesting that both Hayek and Buchanan invoke Kant to underline their otherwise quite distinct theories.

Whatever the goal of the state, obstacles should not be crossed. If examining women’s uteruses doesn’t pass them, one wonders what will. The state has already breached many barriers, often allowing noise from the crowd.

On May 28, 2014, police in Habersham County, Georgia conducted a late-night knock-knock raid on a home they thought might be a drug suspect. SWAT knocks on the door and throws a flash-bang grenade inside. It landed in a playpen where a relative’s 19-month-old baby was sleeping, disfiguring him. Pardon the joke, but the baby, known as Bou Bou, was unfortunately born 19 months early. No police have been criminally indicted except those indicted by a federal grand jury for lying in an affidavit requesting a warrant; He was acquitted. Parents received multi-million dollar damages and settlements from municipal agencies. (See, for example, Mark J. Perry, “Baby Bow Bow Update, Child Mutilated in SWAT Drug Raid on Warrants Obtained with False Information,” AEI, July 24, 2015; Ex-Georgia deputy acquits grenade after flash bang hits child” NBC News, December 13, 2005; Or Google “Baunkham Phonesavannah”. Incidentally, stories like this, which are not rare, suggest that Mar-a-Lago does not represent the most shameful home invasion in American history.

Selling drugs to adults is a victimless crime because no one is forced to buy. Readers who have seen my previous posts on abortion know that I do not believe that abortion is always a punishable crime (“Economic Reflections on Abortion,” EconLog, Aug. 8, 2022). The general lesson is that we must be aware of the permanent dangers of government intervention; Mission creep is part of the peril. Federalism and the freedom to move to other states reduce the danger, but do not eliminate it. And my apologies for the slightly tabloid image I chose for this post. Could it happen here?

A woman who is afraid of being questioned

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