In an unprecedented moment when much of the world is under quarantine to protect vulnerable human lives, some conservatives are preaching utilitarianism or letting partisan loyalties lead them to denial of the facts.
An egregious instance is former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s recent quip on Sean Hannity’s show that people who have died were "on their last legs anyway."
This is an admittedly extreme example of a trending epidemic on the right, in which conservatives persist in disputing the death count by saying that the dead had underlying conditions — the point being, one assumes, to dispute the seriousness of the crisis, get the country back on its feet, and aid President Trump’s reelection.
Here in New York, the papers are filled with tragic stories of those who apparently were healthy until the virus struck. Especially heartbreaking are the deaths of the brave doctors, nurses, EMT workers, and grocery clerks who died because of their exposure.
But even if the majority of the dead had "underlying conditions," these "conditions" are on a spectrum from serious to pretty mild.
As I said to a conservative friend who cited hypertension: How many people do you know who are on high blood pressure meds, and are otherwise vibrant and healthy?
Are they near death? Yet they are especially at risk.
For those who did have serious medical conditions prior to contracting the virus, it was the virus that killed them. To discount their deaths is disturbingly evocative of the utilitarianism we conservatives have consistently deplored: that the quality of life of a person determines whether their death means "as much" as a healthy person’s.
Former U.S. Education Secretary William (Bill) Bennett stated recently on Fox News that Covid-19 "was not, and is not a pandemic. But we do have panic and pandemonium as a result of the hype of this and it’s really unfortunate. Look at the facts."
He goes on to say that the projected loss of 60,000 Americans means that "we’re going to have fewer fatalities from this than from the flu."
Well, "pandemic" seems accurate to me, but more importantly, models and projections are not facts in themselves. No one can know now how many will ultimately die.
Most crucially, the projected number of deaths Bennett cites were revised from much higher projections because of all the mitigation efforts, and are based on assuming "full social distancing through May 2020."
How would things be looking if we had gone on with life as usual?
And what is Bennett saying to all the Americans who have lost their jobs?
That the real danger is "hype" and none of the sacrifices were necessary?
I don’t believe that, just as I know this isn’t a "flu."
The flu doesn’t typically wipe out multiple family members in days.
The flu hasn’t overwhelmed hospital systems, and lead to the deaths of otherwise healthy medical personnel.
The flu hasn’t necessitated refrigerated morgue trucks to park outside hospitals for the overflow of corpses. We don’t (yet) have a vaccine for this, and we are only in the beginning stages when it comes to finding effective treatment.
Before the virus hit, those anti-abortion were vigorously fighting assisted suicide and euthanasia laws that would put the elderly and the vulnerable at risk, saying it could lead to health rationing — you know, death panels.
Now some who identify as prolife are discounting an emergency that is putting those very lives at stake in a newly dangerous way. Look at this report, which says that several states already have policies which would send the disabled "to the back of the line" for life-saving treatment.
The disabled are right to be worried, with some of their former defenders now using "underlying conditions" as a way to lessen the importance of their lives.
We in the anti-abortion movement have been fighting "ableism" in medicine, law, and the culture —decrying the abortion of children with Down Syndrome, warning that legalizing euthanasia will lead, as it has in Belgium and the Netherlands, to involuntary killings of those with cancer, or dementia — we don’t need the sickness of ableism to infect our own movement.
At the beginning of this crisis, I was heartened by the fact that leaders, anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights alike, were begging us to stay home to protect the elderly and vulnerable.
What a powerful and inspiring example to all of the rightness of what we in the movement have been talking about all along: each human life, of any age and ability, has dignity and value and is worth protecting, even if it means hardship for others.
Now, I fear the Coronavirus is exposing some underlying conditions — preoccupations with power or party, an unwillingness to bear uncomfortable truths — which plague and weaken the anti-abortion movement.
Maria McFadden Maffucci is the editor in chief of the Human Life Review (www.humanlifereview.com), a quarterly journal devoted to the defense of human life, founded in 1974 by her father, James P. McFadden, Associate Publisher of National Review. She is President of the Human Life Foundation, based in midtown Manhattan, which publishes the Review and supports pregnancy resource centers. Mrs. Maffucci’s articles and editorials have appeared in the Human Life Review, First Things, National Review Online, National Review, Verily. A Holy Cross graduate with a BA in Philosophy, she is married to Robert E. Maffucci, and the mother of three children. Her interests include exploring opportunities for individuals with special needs. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
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