Pregnancy Centers: A Clear Purpose of Medicine with Coherent Ethics

Christopher Lisanti, Sandy Christiansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


What is the purpose of medicine? This fundamental question is at the heart of the criticisms faced by pregnancy centers (PCs) and accusations that they are unethical. PCs maintain that the purpose of medicine is to treat and prevent disease. Because pregnancy is not a disease, PCs do not advocate for elective abortion or contraceptives. PCs view the function of values (e.g., autonomy) as constraints upon physicians that prevent physical and ethical harms. Their critics either embrace an ill-defined purpose of medicine such as promoting well-being or conflate the value of autonomy with medicine’s purpose. This leads to a subjective view of medicine and changes the relationship from physician–patient to vendor–customer. This subjective nature along with its attendant vendor–customer relationship cannot solve for current or future ethical problems such as sex-selective abortion and its fatal discrimination against females. Summary: Pregnancy Centers embrace a traditional “treat and prevent disease” purpose of medicine. This clear and objective purpose logically leads to not advocating for abortion or contraceptives. The authors outline a coherent ethical structure outlining the role values play in regards to this purpose. This is contrasted with the current ill-defined purpose within medicine today that has led to an inconsistent change of the physician-patient relationship to a vendor-customer one, ethical incoherence, and several attendant harms, most notably sex-selective abortion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-340
Number of pages7
JournalLinacre Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Abortion
  • Autonomy
  • Bioethics
  • Consumer-directed care
  • Ethics
  • Philosophy of medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy


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