The Ethics of Access: Reframing the Need for Abortion Care as a Health Disparity

Katie Watson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The majority of U.S. abortion patients are poor women, and Black and Hispanic women. Therefore, this article encourages bioethicists and equity advocates to consider whether the need for abortion care should be considered a health disparity, and if yes, whether framing it this way would increase the ability of poor women and women of color to get the medical care they need. In order to engage with these critical questions, bioethicists must avoid abortion exceptionalism and respect patients as moral agents. Centering the conscience of pregnant people shifts our analysis away from the ethics of the act of abortion, and toward the ethics of access to abortion care. Because the Supreme Court is on the brink of shifting the question of abortion’s legality to state legislatures, this is the moment for all bioethicists to clarify and strengthen their thinking, writing, and teaching in abortion ethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Bioethics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2022


  • Abortion
  • children and families
  • contraception
  • cultural studies
  • health equity
  • justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects


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