A public emergency is a time of great sacrifice, and Americans everywhere are making the right sacrifices to save lives during the coronavirus outbreak. Twenty-nine percent of the U.S. economy has stalled due to shutdowns incurred by the coronavirus, while 86% of U.S. churches have stopped holding Sunday services. Nonetheless, Americans are in the fight to protect life, even where that fight costs them dearly. But that’s why I can only deplore Governor Northam’s decision to compromise on the value of life just to keep nonessential abortion clinics operational during this crisis.
On March 23, Governor Northam issued an executive order that prohibits in-person gatherings of more than 10 people and enforces a shutdown of all nonessential businesses and services. Violation of this executive order is punishable as a class one misdemeanor, an offense that carries a maximum jail time of 12 months and a maximum fine of $2,500. Just two days later, Governor Northam issued a directive prohibiting all elective surgeries that require personal protective equipment and that can be delayed without incurring harm to the patient.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a state governor demanding sacrifices like these. We all know how vital it is that everyone do their part to “flatten the curve” and reduce the burden on our healthcare infrastructure. But there’s just one problem with the measures that Northam has taken: Northam has explicitly granted an exception to “the full suite of family planning services and treatments” offered by abortion clinics. So, while Northam is willing to cancel church services, restrict travel and ban elective surgeries, he is unwilling to prohibit or even simply to restrict abortion services.
This approach is fundamentally inconsistent; it is also a mistake. Abortion simply is not an essential healthcare service. At a time when we all need to protect life, making exceptions for abortions service that kill innocent unborn children flies in the face of common sense and runs contrary to the very purpose of pandemic protocols.
Across the nation, our medical staff is facing serious shortages in medical equipment. Not only do abortion clinics violate social distancing protocols, but they siphon off personal protective equipment from our frontline healthcare providers. At a time when millions of Americans are making sacrifices to help overcome our nation’s equipment shortages, it’s preposterous that abortion clinics are staying open and exacerbating the problem.
Abortion providers like Planned Parenthood aren’t even committed to using their clinics to provide pregnancy care services during this crisis. Instead, they’re reducing these services and focusing on abortion. But abortion, whether pharmaceutical or surgical in nature, entails significant medical risks and is demonstrably correlated with poor mental and emotional health outcomes for those who receive it. And apart from the harm that abortion does to mothers, we can never forget that abortion ends an innocent human life. Given the data, and the fact that abortion hurts life rather than protecting it, there’s no good argument that abortion provides indispensable healthcare during a pandemic.
Other state governors have acted more consistently and with a clearer focus on protecting life. Texas, Ohio and Tennessee have all included abortion services among elective procedures prohibited during the coronavirus outbreak. In response, these states have faced outrage and legal challenges from pro-choice groups who are trying to force state governors to soften their abortion restrictions and allow for abortion clinics to operate unimpeded. Happily, the 5th circuit court in Texas has upheld Governor Abbot’s abortion ban, setting a welcome legal precedent and ensuring that vital personal protective equipment isn’t wasted on harmful abortions. But it just goes to show how even a pandemic won’t stop activists from politicizing Americans’ healthcare needs.
The fact is that restricting abortion services is the right move. Right now, Americans need to rally around the values that will strengthen us and carry us through this crisis. Life is one of those values, as is our Christian faith in the dignity of every human being. We should praise those governors who see through the political motivation behind keeping abortion clinics open, and who stick both to common sense and to God’s word by consistently upholding the fundamental human value of life while that value is under attack by a deadly virus.
It’s no question that state governments need to take decisive action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But states need to take consistent, evidence-based and effective action. Executive action like Northam’s that benefits pro-choice political interests while burdening our healthcare system is no way to confront this emergency. America has never been a nation of compromises. Governors, especially, should not be making compromises with the abortion industry during this crisis.
Timothy Head is the executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.