Why Elective Abortion Can Never Constitute Health Care

Why Elective Abortion Can Never Constitute Health Care

Intentionally killing a human being is a direct contradiction of the Hippocratic Oath. No mantra will change that.
Timothy M. Jackson
By

Planned Parenthood and NARAL recently promoted a blog post by a pro-abortion doctor titled, “Abortion Is Healthcare — End of Story,” that offers little more than an empty mantra for pro-choicers.

There are a few glaring omissions in Leah Torres’ argument. She doesn’t provide a definition of abortion that leads to the conclusion abortion is healthcare, and she leaves readers without a direct answer to some important questions that are key to her  argument: What is health care? Who is a patient? What she does provide doesn’t lead to the conclusion she thinks.

Torres and Planned Parenthood and NARAL can repeat the line “abortion is healthcare” as many times as they want, but that simply won’t make it true. Contrary to popular belief, the definitions of words are important. Let’s go through each of her arguments, and take a look at what’s actually there.

Pregnancy Is Not a Disease

Torres tries to refute what should be an uncontroversial statement of fact — pregnancy is not a disease. Her peculiar argument to the contrary is our first problem with the definition of words.

Torres writes: “People often say to me, ‘It’s not a disease, it’s a natural part of life.’ Yes, well, so are bacteria, yet we call having an infection a ‘disease.’ We cannot ignore that pregnancy alters one’s physiology and puts one’s health and life at risk due to these changes. We must accept this truth to be self evident, that pregnancy, while natural, is a condition that requires medical attention.”

What should be apparent is that a disease is not the only condition that requires medical attention. Here we have a physician calling pregnancy an “infection” and implying, contrary to the definition of words, that nearly every human being that has ever existed has either been infected or infected someone else with the “disease” of pregnancy. Even if we altered reality for Torres’ sake, it still does not follow that intentionally killing a human being is healthcare.

Torres’ second argument is that “offering health insurance for prenatal care, but not for abortion or infertility care, is nothing short of coercion.” This too, is not an argument that abortion is healthcare. It is another non-sequitur. My response is that we should limit insurance coverage to those procedures that involve healthcare. If you want to call that “coercion,” so be it. She has yet to make an argument that abortion is healthcare.

Health Care and the Hippocratic Oath

What properly constitutes “healthcare?” The original Hippocratic Oath explicitly forbids abortion as a valid practice in medicine, but even if we take the more modest underlying principle often credited to derive from the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm,” we immediately recognize that the intent to kill is not a legitimate form of medical practice. You are not providing adequate healthcare when you are ending a life. I feel like captain obvious here, but unfortunately the obvious still needs to be said. This is best summed up in the following syllogism:

  1. Healthcare never involves the intent to kill.
  2. Elective abortion involves the intent to kill.
  3. Therefore, elective abortion is not healthcare.

Any procedure in which a successful outcome is dependent on the demise of an unborn human being cannot be a valid form of healthcare. End of story. This means some difficult cases of abortion, such as the necessity of a mother to remove a gravid cancerous uterus before her child is able to survive outside the womb, are healthcare. The success of that procedure is dependent on the removal of the cancer to preserve the mother’s life. But elective abortions are never healthcare.

How Many Patients Are Under A Physician’s Care During Pregnancy?

Torres’ final claim is that the unborn child is a patient, or a human being, only if the mother thinks so:

To equate a fetus to its pregnant mother is factually incorrect. Still, a philosophical argument of their equality can be put forth until the cows come home. But once they do, the only philosophy that matters is that of the person who is pregnant. I have cared for a wide range of pregnant people and I can tell you this: while some would give their own life to save the pregnancy, others see the pregnancy as, yes, a clump of cells. Both views, and everything in between, are valid.

Again, we are faced with the odd example of a physician apparently denying scientific and biological realities concerning the ontological status of the unborn; even that contradictory propositions can both be equally true. This is both bad science and bad philosophy.

How many patients are involved during pregnancy? It is equal to the number of human beings involved, and that number is at least two. This is the biological reality of the case. Her child is a human being, independent of what she believes, and human beings are the kind of beings that have value, independent of what their mothers believe. To correct Torres’ initial statement, we must accept this truth to be self-evident, that pregnancy, while natural, is a condition that involves more than one patient.

A physician has an obligation to provide optimal care to as many patients as possible that are in her care. Defining patients out of existence will not do. A patient is not a patient only if you say they are. A patient is a human being in need of care whether you acknowledge them or not. It goes back to that whole “definition of words” thing. Prenatal care is rightly covered by health insurance because it acknowledges the truth — that more than one patient is involved in pregnancy. You cannot simply claim to be performing healthcare if you are ignoring the welfare of some patients involved. It is not healthcare to intentionally kill patients.

Timothy Jackson loves to discuss God, politics, and what it means to pursue the Good. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter @TMichaelJack.

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