Abortion as medical

Abortion and sterilization* are unique in being non-cosmetic medical procedures where the expertise of the doctor plays an entirely instrumental role.

Say I go into a dentist with tooth pain and want him to pull my tooth. I’d still expect him to examine the tooth for himself and diagnose that the best course of action is extraction. Notice that this need not be because he thinks I’m ignorant: even if I am a dentist myself and know exactly what is causing my tooth pain I still expect him to pull the tooth only after he concurs with me or sees himself as part of a larger diagnostic project. This is because doctors are not contractors that I hire to execute my own ends but have ends in virtue of being doctors that must be respected.

So either abortion and sterilization are not medical procedures or they are medical procedures which can be infallibly diagnosed by non-experts. The second option is a joke, but the first can’t be right either- we clearly don’t seek the procedures just to look better but because we believe that they will improve our quality of life or protect us from some major trauma.

Or is it that the procedures are medical, but that doctors are at this moment in history unable to determine when they will lead to health and when they won’t? But it would be a strange response to our ignorance to charge ahead and default to the decision of the patient.

My interest is only with showing how these sorts of procedures* instrumentalize medicine, which is some sort of perversion. That said, it might be the lesser of two evils – if doctors were actually forced to develop rules when bearing children, fertility, etc. were healthy and when they should be cut off, I’m not confident that this would lead to better results.


*At the moment, sex-reassignment surgery and assisted suicide still seem to involve some sort of diagnosis, but both have a tendency toward becoming purely instrumental. Abortion once required diagnosis too, but later became a fundamental right. The irony of justifying the procedures for “the health of the mother” is that the justification of the procedures tends to sideline the question of health and replace it with simply the desires of the patient.

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