by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governors across America to shut down their states in a collective effort to stop the spread of the contagious coronavirus. The shut downs temporarily stopped the operations of public and private entities whose services are not life-sustaining. The precautions have divided Americans into essential and non-essential workers.
Who determines the essentials?
According to the USA Today, federal guidelines gave the states leeway to determine what each state considered essential and non-essential during an emergency.
But leeway isn’t license, or is it?
Recently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), along with other reproductive health organizations, issued a joint statement. They stated, “Abortion is an essential component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risk or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impacts a person’s life, health, and well-being.” But a coalition of pro-life leaders issued a statement of their own warning that the “abortion industry” will exploit the anxiety of women by continuing to promote abortions across the country. The pro-life coalition called on public officials to oppose the practice of abortion during the national health crisis. The pro-life coalition claimed this will protect women, who might need follow-up care due to abortion complications, from being an extra burden on emergency centers who are overwhelmed with coronavirus cases.
A lot of people, regardless of their legal or moral stance on abortion, would agree with ACOG, but authorities in some states agreed with the pro-life position.
Ohio’s attorney general mandated all of the state’s abortion clinics to “immediately stop performing non-essential and elective abortions.” The attorney general in Texas included abortion in a list of “non-essential” surgeries for suspension. Texas directed providers to stop performing abortions unless the mother’s life or health was in danger or face fines and 180 days of jail time. And Mississippi’s governor called for abortion to be halted in the state during the coronavirus pandemic. At a press conference the governor vowed to levy whatever action necessary to protect, not only the lives of unborn children, but also the lives of anyone who may contract the virus.
The national health crisis has turned our elected officials into crisis managers that have to confront public health concerns and prioritize public economic concerns to determine the best course of action to achieve the most beneficial outcome. But doesn’t an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy also turn a woman into a crisis manager with socioeconomic concerns to prioritize in order to determine the best course of action? If you answered yes, then abortions are essential and if you answered no, then abortions are non-essential. But if you answered no, then politics comes before people.
Laura Bassett, a columnist for GQ, wrote, “It’s much easier to advocate for the life of a fetus than of a person in the world. They don’t require food or housing or government support. If a politician doesn’t also value the lives of American citizens, then spending time defending a fetus is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to control and punish the woman who carries it.” Harsh, but true.