Far be it from me to quail at criticizing Barr for intellectual or moral consistency, as regular readers know, but this one's really not fair game.
The whole issue arose during the Clinton impeachment, when Hustler publisher Larry Flynt cast his net far and wide to document the sexual indiscretions of Republicans. Given that Barr was then a prime mover and shaker in the House team that tried Bubba in the Senate, Flynt was thrilled to find this dirt:
Barr was one of 13 House Republicans chosen to act as prosecutors in Clinton's Senate trial. Barr, Flynt's investigators found, was guilty of king-size hypocrisy: An outspoken foe of abortion, the Georgia lawmaker had acquiesced to his then-wife having an abortion in 1983. And he had invoked a legal privilege during his 1985 divorce proceeding so he could refuse to answer questions on whether he'd cheated on his second wife with the woman who is now his third.
Barr, in Flynt's mind, was guilty of far more heinous moral crimes than Clinton. ``Bob Barr stood on the House floor and said abortion was the equivalent to murder,'' Flynt told the assembled press. ``To me, that represents the ultimate form of hypocrisy, and in many ways it's worse than failing to tell the truth under oath.''
In his 1986 divorce hearing, Barr testified that he had objected to the abortion, but Gail Barr's affidavit for Flynt claimed otherwise:
8. In March of 1963, 1 became pregnant for the third time. When I became pregnant the third time, our two sons were three years old and a year-and-a-half. I was 38 years old, concerned with health complications the pregnancy might present, and Bob's practice was slow, and he was not home much. We did not have any health insurance. I asked Bob what we should do; whether I should have an abortion. He said it was entirely my decision and that I should do whatever I wanted to do. This was an extremely difficult choice, but Bob did not want to help in making the decision, even though he was the father. If Bob had said, "No, don't have an abortion," I never would have had it done.
9. Bob never told me not to have the abortion, or that he was in any way against my having the abortion. Any statement he made that he expressed his opposition to the abortion is simply not true.
10. On the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend in 1983, Bob drove me to the clinic to have an abortion. He watched our boys at home while the procedure was done. He then came to the clinic to to get me. He paid for the procedure.
Three things can be safely deduced from this statement, even allowing for the bias of the witness:
1. Bob and Gail Barr discussed the possibility of abortion when she became pregnant the third time.
2. Bob insisted that the decision to have an abortion was purely her choice.
3. Barr drove her to the clinic and paid for the abortion.
What's intriguing here is that Barr's attitude and conduct is actually Libertarian.
Remember, there are both pro-abortion and anti-abortion Libertarians; the LP Platform actually says,
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.
If actions speak louder than words, consider this. Barr obviously has personal objections to abortion, and in his worst moments he has participated in efforts to reduce women's reproductive freedom.
But faced with the situation in his own family, what did he do? He refused to cajole or coerce, insisting that abortion was his wife's decision alone. Then he drove her to the clinic, watched the boys, and paid the bill.
(And, yes, he probably lied about it in divorce court. Show me somebody who hasn't lied when they were in divorce court.)
In other words, even his ex-wife acting as a hostile witness couldn't come up with anything more damning than "He said it was entirely my decision and that I should do whatever I wanted to do."
Which is--oh shit!--pretty much the entire Libertarian philosophy in a nutshell.
I've got a lot of problems with Barr as Libertarian presidential nominee--everything from the Patriot Act to DOMA to his own little war on drugs.
But this isn't one of them.