Why we should stop using the term “elective abortion”

Katie Watson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In abortion care, the term “elective” is often used as a moral judgment that determines which patients are entitled to care. Secular health care organizations that attempt to avoid controversy by allowing “therapeutic” but not “elective” abortions are using medical terminology to reinforce regressive social norms concerning motherhood and women’s sexuality because what distinguishes pregnant women with medical indications for abortion is that they originally wanted to become mothers or, in cases of rape, that they did not consent to sex. Secular health care organizations should stop denying the moral agency of patients and physicians who conclude abortion is morally acceptable and should only use the word elective when billing codes require it. Regardless of reason, the proper label for all abortion is health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1175-E1180
JournalAMA Journal of Ethics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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