Quick Response #9: Abortion Is a Private Health Care Decision

Emily Albrecht responds to the pro-choice slogan “Abortion is Healthcare.” How is healthcare defined, and how does abortion fit into that picture?

Watch all the videos in ERI’s Quick Response series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsN8Ay8poS-It-dWSmblq1ZufOH-MVj1L

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“Abortion is Healthcare”: A Misogynistic Non-Argument

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If it’s labeled as health care, then it must be fine, right? There’s been an incredibly frustrating trend in pro-choice media to simply label abortion as part of health care, as if plopping it under the same category as getting my annual physical exam suddenly makes abortion access nonnegotiable. This idea manifests itself in a variety of slogans like “Abortion is a private health care decision,” “I don’t want politicians involved in my reproductive health care,” and the infamous “ABORTION. IS. HEALTH. CARE.” typed in all-caps by half of Twitter. But here’s the problem: Abortion doesn’t actually fit under the definition of healthcare.

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Health care is defined as a preventative or restorative practice. To claim that abortion is preventative is a categorical error—the living, human, organism in question here has already come into existence. Abortion doesn’t prevent a human, it kills one.

On the other hand, to claim that abortion is restorative is an incredibly misogynistic viewpoint. If abortion is restorative, then pregnancy must be considered abnormal—a problem or irregularity that must be “fixed” in order for the woman to return to an acceptable state. In such a worldview, the male body is “normal” and women are forced to abandon and subdue their natural bodily functions in order to conform. If there is ever a time to scream patriarchy, this is it! As a woman, I find that absolutely revolting. The female pregnant body is not inferior or abnormal, it’s in my very nature and anatomy. My very nature and anatomy is NOT inferior.

If abortion cannot fit in either the preventative or restorative categories, then it can’t fall under the current definition of health care. We can try expanding the definition of health care to include abortion, but without the preventative or restorative categories we’d end up with something like “any intervention made by trained and licensed medical professionals” which is extremely problematic. Under such a broad definition, literally ANYTHING done to the human body by a licensed medical professional would be healthcare, even if it’s female genital mutilation. I think it’s pretty clear that such a broad definition is NOT morally acceptable.

So if health care must be a preventative or restorative practice, then ABORTION CAN’T BE HEALTH CARE. Ultimately, abortion can’t be justified by merely an appeal to science or medicine; it’s a question of ethics. It’s a question of whether killing another member of our species is justified during pregnancy. That’s at least a legitimate question to explore, but miscategorizing abortion as health care gets us nowhere in answering that question.

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