The Public Funding of Abortion in Canada: Going Beyond the Concept of Medical Necessity
Medicine, Health Care, and Philosophy 2009 August; 12(3): 301-311
This article defends the public funding of abortion in the Canadian health care system in light of objections by opponents of abortion that the procedure should be denied public funding. Abortion opponents point out that women terminate their pregnancies most often for social reasons, that the Canadian health care system only requires funding for medically necessary procedures, and that abortion for social reasons is not medically necessary care. I offer two lines of response. First, I briefly present an argument that characterizes abortion sought for social reasons as medically necessary care, directly contesting the anti-abortion position. Second, and more substantially, I present a justice argument that shows that even if abortion is not regarded as medically necessary care, the reasons that typically motivate women to seek abortion are sufficiently weighty from the moral perspective that it would be unjust to deny them public funding. I finish by drawing the more general conclusion that health care funding decisions should be guided by a broader concept of necessary care, rather than by a narrow concept of specifically medical necessity. A broad concept of necessary care has been debated in health care policy in the Netherlands, and I suggest that such a concept would be a more just and defensible guide for funding decisions than the concept of medical necessity.
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