By: Jackson Milton
What is the purpose of medicine? While a consensus answer may be difficult, most would agree the practice does not include the intentional killing of human beings. Nor does medicine include abandonment, where patients are left to suffer and die, effaced of all hope, all freedom, and all human connection. But this depiction of medicine—one that should be widely accepted—is too often characterized as unduly burdensome or constrictive for contemporary medicine, where technology forges ahead post haste with individual people left in the wake. Sadly, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) has succumbed to this allure of medical progress—and, as they have routinely demonstrated through their lobbying efforts in the Texas Capitol, preborn children and vulnerable patients are not a part of this new world.
Much of our modern world is ablaze with people incensed that Texas enacted a law banning elective abortions after the preborn child’s heartbeat is detectable. Twitter is a firestorm, with Pro-Life accounts being attacked by ad hominems, strawmen, and vulgar epithets. Other platforms aren’t much better. This constant and incoherent chorus is shared by many who have organized their lives or worldviews around the destruction of preborn Life.
While the provocateurs are often laypeople, many are journalists, politicians, influencers, celebrities, and other members of the aristocratic establishment. Sadly, some of the loudest commentaries have come from the medical community, including the TMA.
The Texas Medical Association is the state’s powerful medical society that lobbies on bills during the legislative session. That doesn’t stop the TMA which published a statement condemning the Texas Heartbeat Act, writing the law “contains language that criminalizes the practice of medicine,” and that, “physicians of Texas never thought the day would come when the performance of our oath would create a private cause of action for persons not connected to or harmed by the action.”
That the TMA condemns a law that prohibits the intentional killing of persons reveals just how divorced the group is from medicine’s origins. Hippocrates famously formulated the oath that prevails to this day to a limited degree in most medical schools. Antiquity transformed much of western civilization, and among the ancients, Hippocrates was indeed the most responsible for medicine’s evolution from superstition to rational science. Through this rebirth, medicine always maintained a moral dimension: Medical acts are to heal, not to hurt; to save, not to kill.
One might think that the Texas Medical Association understands this dynamic. Yes, physicians can harness the power of medical technology for many ends, some of which should be repugnant to their profession. This is why medicine is distinct from medical technology and why physicians practice the former. The medical community objects to capital punishment by lethal injection even though the drugs are pharmacologically effective. Using medical instruments contra life corrupts the practice of medicine.
Abortion is an unmistakable example of corrupt medicine—an act designed precisely to kill a human being through medical instruments or pharmaceuticals. According to the TMA, however, abortion is a pristine example of “the practice of medicine,” free from the moral constraints that differentiate what is acceptable from what is possible.
Perhaps the TMA wants the pregnant mother to make an informed decision (to kill). However, this doesn’t explain why the TMA opposed legislative efforts to inform pregnant mothers seeking abortions of the undeniable humanity of the preborn child, including the Sonogram Law in 2011.
Perhaps the TMA believes individual physicians themselves define the practice of medicine, so they can practice in line with their individual moral beliefs. But this doesn’t explain why the TMA was conspicuously absent earlier this year when a bill to protect the consciences of physicians traversed the Texas Legislature.
Abortion enjoys a privileged status among their advocacy concerns.
Likewise, the TMA’s notion that some people aren’t worthy of medicine’s healing functions animates more than their position on abortion. Every Texas Legislative Session, the TMA and the group’s acolytes muster zealous opposition to any Pro-Life reform of the 10-Day Rule, whereby life-sustaining treatment that is working may be removed from a patient without his or her consent. To the TMA, preborn children aren’t the only nuisances; vulnerable patients also overstay their welcome.
While the Hippocratic Oath does not include the phrase “do no harm,” Hippocrates was more specific when he wrote, a physician “will not give to a woman [an instrument]to cause abortion.”
The TMA is reasoning predictably and perfectly backwards. Protections for preborn children, like the Texas Heartbeat Act, do not violate a physician’s oath—abortion does, and so does the 10-Day Rule and many other practices that the TMA supports. But that is not really the TMA’s point. Rather, ideological approval of abortion and other anti-Life practices is their point. Hippocrates no longer has a say.
Though the TMA promotes a multiplicity of controversial and odious policy positions, individual TMA members don’t have fair representation within the Texas Capitol. Texas Right to Life works with many physicians who fearlessly reject the TMA’s pernicious approach to elective abortion and patients’ rights. Support of elective abortion and the 10-Day Rule is not ubiquitous within the medical academy, no matter what statements the TMA mindlessly parrots.
Medical technology will continue to grow exponentially more sophisticated, with the reach and potential thereof affecting countless lives for better, and for worse. Nonetheless, the purpose of medicine, which is that of healing and preventing disease, does not change. Abortion is not a medical act, nor has such killing ever been a medical act. The Texas Medical Association is lying. If the group was honest, they would find a new name and stop misrepresenting thousands of medical professionals in Texas.