Republicans Have Stopped Pretending to Care About Life

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On January 26, AM Radio host and Texas Lt Governor celebrated Republicans’ successful effort to quash Trump’s impeachment by reminding Republican voters of their reason for supporting him:

President Trump declared January 22 as National Sanctity of Life Day and also became the first president in U.S. history to speak at the March for Life Rally this week. We must never stop praying and fighting for life.  Thank you, President Trump, for your work to protect the unborn and for affirming our principled belief that all human life is sacred.

“All human life is sacred.” That’s why evangelical Christians have to vote for a president who makes a mockery of their supposed values. Trump apologist, Marc Thiessen, in a particularly sycophantic column in the Washington Post, declared on January 23 that Trump is a “pro-life hero” who should be hailed because “an American president is finally marching in defense of human life.”

Surprised that the most sanctimonious people you know are backing the most vulgar public figure in modern history? Well, he’s “marching in defense of human life.” They are serving a higher set of values, right?

A Republican abortion stance premised around their supposed passion for “life” always seemed awkward. If someone genuinely wanted to see fewer abortions, wouldn’t they enthusiastically back measures that reduce the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy? Wouldn’t they be begging for fact-based sex education, eliminating obstacles to contraceptive use, and insisting that governments provide paid leave for mothers?

Why would a movement premised on the “sanctity of life” also be so hysterically enthusiastic about gun ownership? Wouldn’t they be concerned about police violence? Wouldn’t political activists committed to protecting babies be clogging the gates of immigrant detention centers where infants are being torn from their mothers to punish them for seeking asylum?  States run by “pro-life” Republicans would have model foster care systems, flush with funding, a system of universal health care to cover mothers and children, and the finest maternity survival rates to be seen in the world. They don’t. They never do. What’s going on here?

Just a few weeks after Dan Patrick gushed over Trump’s pro-life credentials and insisted that “all human life is sacred,” that position became mildly inconvenient for him, so he abandoned it on live TV. Other Republicans would quickly follow. Here’s what Patrick said to Tucker Carlson on Fox News on March 23.

Patrick: I just think there are lots of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren – that what we all care about and what we love more than anything are those children. And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed, and that’s what I see.

Carlson: You’re basically saying that this disease could take your life, but that’s not the scariest thing to you? There’s something that would be worse than dying?

Patrick: I want them to have a shot at the American Dream but right now this virus which all the experts say that 98% of all people will survive is killing our country in another way. It could bring about a total economic collapse and potentially a collapse of our society. So I say let’s give this a few more days or weeks but after that, let’s go back to work and go back to living.

To quote one of America’s most strident “pro-life” politicians, “all human life is sacred” except for the 2% or so we need to kill to avoid any economic impact. According to Patrick, women who are raped should be forced by the government to give birth because the cells growing inside them are human beings, and as such they are “sacred.” But if it costs millions of deaths of real live human beings to keep business healthy, that’s just a pragmatic compromise.

Naturally, pro-life organizations all over the country rushed to denounce Patrick’s statement. Just kidding. They don’t mind. Go searching for a prominent statement from pro-life groups denouncing Patrick’s position.

That’s not all. Operation Rescue, the group so passionate about the sanctity of human life that they helped murder Dr. George Tiller, is backing Patrick’s position. America’s most strident voice for “life” is publicly supporting a position that would kill millions of Americans. Why? Because they feel the quarantine is inspiring more abortions. What, you might ask, does the term “pro-life” mean in our politics? Pro-life means you have to kill millions of Americans to make sure every last pregnant woman is forced by the government into childbirth.

Patrick is not a lonely voice. His is now the mainstream Republican stance on the pandemic. Louisiana Senator John Kennedy, stood on the steps of the US Supreme Court building on March 4, announcing to a gathering of pro-life protestors that “The undeniable truth is that we have a solemn duty to protect all lives, all souls, especially the most innocent and vulnerable among us.”

Just a month later that same Senator went on Fox News to join Patrick, calling for lives to be sacrificed to save businesses. Here’s Senator Kennedy summarizing America’s pro-life movement:

We’ve got to open this economy. If we don’t, it’s going to collapse. When we end the shutdown, the virus is going to spread faster. That’s just a fact. And the American people understand that.

According to Kennedy’s logic, A college student who gets pregnant, or a single mother struggling to support her two kids, should be forced by the government to upend her life and bear alone the economic and physical burden of her pregnancy because every life is sacred. However, if there is some risk of economic damage that might extend to him or his donors, we should sacrifice millions of lives as our patriotic duty to protect business.

Pro-life Senator Ron Johnson, one of America’s ten richest Senators, further outlined the pro-life position on how many Americans we should kill to protect businesses:

We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways. It’s a risk we accept so we can move about. We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die from the common flu. Getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population (and) I think probably far less.

Johnson is comfortable killing a little over 11 million Americans to keep his business interests healthy and successful. Thank god the Senate is controlled by pro-life Republicans, or surely that number would be higher.

We really should have known that pro-life politicians don’t care about lives, because they’ve been saying it more or less out loud for years. When pro-life Senator Ted Cruz decided to pander to the voters at the March for Life back in January, he felt comfortable saying the quiet part out loud. Here’s the pro-life political formula straight from Cruz’s mouth:

Every life is a precious gift from God, a unique and precious gift that deserves to be protected from the moment of conception to the moment of natural birth.

Notice he finally embraced what we’ve all observed for years. The pro-life movement is only concerned about notional people, people who might someday exist. That’s as far as their commitment to “life” extends.

Among pro-life politicians, all concern for human life and dignity is reserved for the mythical twilight prior to existence. Once you’re out in the world, living and breathing and taking up resources, you’re nothing more than a problem to be solved. Real live people are dirty, complicated, troublesome entities with no real value to the pro-life movement until they can take their place in the workforce. If they can’t find “productive” work, they might as well be dead. For the pro-life movement, there are no living people who matter.

What would a real pro-life government do in a pandemic? On the same day Patrick was fawning over Trump’s commitment to the sanctity of human life, Taiwan announced its fourth COVID-19 case. Their first case was detected on January 21. Three days later the Taiwanese government had already secured a massive new supply of personal protective gear for health care professionals and banned their export.

On December 31, while our President was hosting a taxpayer funded party that fed the coffers of his Mar-a-Lago resort, Taiwan started screening airline passengers from Wuhan. Health professionals boarded all arriving flights, checking temperatures and health status of every passenger before they deplaned.

Taiwan responded immediately and competently, using a generations’ old global playbook for pandemic response. To date they’ve suffered a total of 6 COVID-19 deaths. Last week they opened their baseball season. Life there is returning to normal, safely. By the way, abortion in Taiwan is legal and readily available there under only minor constraints. That’s what a pro-life government looks like.

There has never been a coherent, morally consistent pro-life movement in this country of any real size or influence. Authentic pro-life politics has never been more than a niche enthusiasm among a small corner of Catholic intellectuals, lacking any political resonance. To gain any power, pro-life advocates had to ditch all the inconvenient and expensive consistencies in their philosophy, selling their souls to gain donors and influence. Now they peddle death for uncounted millions just to fulfill their dream of complete state control over women’s sexuality.

Pro-life politics was never about life. It was always about the deep-seated fear of women and sex. Pro-life advocates who spend Sunday screaming about the sanctity of human life will cheerfully kill millions to force one more pregnancy to full term. For modern Republicans, the only lives that matter are the ones that cost them nothing.

21 Comments

  1. With Georgia opening up all the places this week is your best signal on what repubs value. But as I have said many times, they are right on this one.

    Merkel told the German people weeks ago that when this is all over, up to 70% of the German population could have the virus. I thought she was crazy at first, then did the math.
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51835856
    But what does she know. She is only a physicist by trade and knows a little about exponential growth.

    Stop thinking about this from a personal level, and look at it from 50,000 feet.
    Last year, 59 million humans died, and the population just keeps on growing.

    The CDC’s website states 630,000 American’s will die of lung cancer in 2020, let alone the ones that die from smoking related heart disease. Yet smoking is still not completely banned.

    How many more will die from suicide, and related health issues due to lockdown-induced poverty? I have no idea what the number is, but it is a non-zero number.

    As I said in a previous post, even at a 2% daily increase in new cases (WAY WAY below the average now, and before lockdowns are lifted), in less than 12 months and before a vaccine is created, the math states that every American will be exposed to the virus. If people accept that fact, and then manage the exposure to this virus accordingly, the damage would be far less.

    If 3.6 million Americans die, that mean 99% of the population carries on. Sounds horrible to say 3.6 million dead, but it is only 1%. If a meteor hit metropolitan Phoenix and wiped out 4.1 million, the U.S. would mourn, take a sizeable dip economically, then pick up the pieces and carry on. There would be no long-term economic devastation and wringing of hands.

      1. Anti-body testing shows If someone has had the virus, swab testing if they have the virus. You might want to look really carefully at the BBC article. Swab testing takes DAYS to get a result. Blood testing takes seconds, but requires far more portable and high tech equipment. You want to bet how long long, if ever, such equipment is widely available?

        And as you well know, if someone does not have the anti-bodies, unless they are exclusively surrounded only by people that have the anti-bodies, and those people are no longer contagious (try figuring that date out), that person can easily be infected and transmit that home, or wherever they go.

        Under the current conditions you want to exist under, such a person will be treated as a second class citizen with serious restrictions on their life, among those the ability to earn an income. That is a death sentence for some, since many simply do not have the privilege to work from home and no income = eventual death.

        And as for my “specious arguments”, dead is dead. Whether you die of a virus, cancer, a bullet, or a meteor, you are still dead. Stop personalizing this, and look at it with clinical eyes. As long as there is no vaccine, and people are getting infected at any rate (which is an absolute certainty), VIRTUALLY EVERYONE will get the virus. That is a simple mathematical fact you cannot ignore.

        Unless you have the ability to completely cut yourself off from all possible carriers of the virus until herd immunity (which by definition is not possible if most don’t get it) or a vaccine is developed, YOU WILL get it.

        So, do you plan on totally isolating yourself from every potential carrier until a vaccine is developed, manufactured in mass quantities, and a logistics system is used to deliver this to enough people to create her immunity?

        You want a really worse case scenario? What if 6 months from now, researchers come out and say “errr….we have discovered that Covid-19 acts like some other members of the corona virus family, specifically MERS and the common cold, and we have no vaccine on the horizon.”

      2. Dins, you just further validate George Santayana. The lessons are here to learn from:

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/04/08/save-lives-social-distancing-must-continue-longer-than-we-expect/

        I’m not saying we have to wait for a vaccine, you are. I’M saying we need to ramp up the testing, reopen in places were the curve has flattened, and so aggressive contact tracing when you see the small flareups happening again. We don’t even have to look at the past. We can look at the places that are doing it now.

        I’m sure I will get the virus eventually. When I get it matters. If I were one of the cases that needed hospitalization, much better to not be in a spike. Also can you give us the R0 values for cancer, bullets, and meteors?

    1. Last time I checked, we don’t twiddle our thumbs and tell people to smoke as much as they want, consequences be damned. With widespread public information and support, the youth smoking rate fell to a historic low of 3.7% last year. And as long as we keep at it, the day when we can look back on smoking as just another piece of history is within our lifetimes.

      https://truthinitiative.org/press/press-release/teen-smoking-rate-hits-historic-low-youth-tobacco-use-hits-record-high

      It is an abhorrently abysmal notion to assert that we should sacrifice 3.6 million Americans’ lives when we absolutely do not have to. A comprehensive testing and tracing program will allow us to isolate those that need to be while opening up those segments of the economy that we can.

      Get over your nihilistic pessimism, Dins. We have the power to solve this, and we should damn well use it.

    2. Ryan,

      Not that people dieing in large numbers is ok, but the problem is not a lot of people will die. The problem is that the hospital system will collapse under the weight of all the ICU beds filled! Not to mention the fact that our government, or at least the head of our government has lied about the virus from the beginning and was woefully unprepared for what is happening!

      Joe

    1. HI Mary – thanks for giving a sound logical argument for opposing abortion. Am I correct is deducing that your argument would prohibit abortion in ALL circumstances?

      However, from a practical viewpoint I think there is a significant problem with your argument. Your logic, like all logic, depends on accepting prior premises. Your premises are derived from religious canon that a significant proportion our citizens do not accept as irrefutable truth, and hence can not give any credence to your argument. Valid public arguments in a democracy generally proceed from premises that are at least partially based on real-world observations. There is usually contention about the validity of these premises, but the debate ultimately hinges on the interpretation of real-world events.

      This process puts those who lives are strongly influenced by religious canon at a disadvantage in that to engage in public debate they need to develop other arguments. But a viable democracy cannot proceed on a majority vote alone, in the interest of community peace and cohesion compromises must be made.

      Searching for such compromises should be at the core of our public debate on abortion policy. We should realize that (1) no group will ever be fully satisfied, so discussion will never end, and (2) public policy will fluctuate over time, emphasizing first one position and then another. In a functioning democracy this is inevitable because the real-world is constantly changing, as is the citizens perception of reality.

      1. Hi Frank – I’m assuming you’re talking to me? So two thoughts:

        1. The people in my family who have kept the faith believe that no abortion is ever anything but murder. God created that fetus at point of conception regardless of how it happened. I’ve heard conservative protestants say the same thing…that a baby is a blessing from God, a bright spot in a terrible event.

        2. I personally left that theology decades ago. Thanks for eloquently expressing the value of a separation of state and church in the face of firmly held beliefs.

  2. I grew up in a deeply conservative Catholic family, and from that point of view there is zero inconsistency in the treatment of unborn babies vs everyone else. You were perhaps fooled by a little misleading marketing. It’s never been prolife – it’s all about INNOCENT prolife, a state which ends the moment of birth. That’s the holy moment when you are blessed with original sin that Adam and Eve gave each of us. So, you see, post birth, life is inherently less valuable (logical conclusion). It’s an abomination when a sinful woman ends the life of a sinless (until birth) child. After birth? Everything’s different. A policy that kills many but benefits you is far different than the choice of one sinless child.

    1. For argument’s sake, I’m going to take this mindset very seriously and point out how objectively self-defeating it is to itself.

      Okay, so let’s take the presumption that life is prescribed an undefined measure of ‘innocence’ while still in its mother’s body and therefore the taking of said life via abortion is an unmitigated evil.

      I’ve just one question: why would a Catholic (or any other person of religious faith concerned with abortion) fight to their last breath to define an unborn fetus as a human being if they hold humans in such irredeemable contempt as to be burdened with “original sin” from the moment they take their first breath?

      This mindset doesn’t get to have its proverbial cake and eat it too. Either you believe an unborn fetus is undeserving of being called a human being and therefore entitled to a presumption of innocence or it is and therefore one must, *by necessity*, strip it of the very innocence that commands abortion to be regarded as evil.

      Pick your poison.

      1. Yep, I hear you … I’m just pointing out the foundation of the belief and how that leads to acceptance of morally dubious treatment of actual people (born of sin). You have to remember that the doctrine says that life begins at conception…or be more precise, a life born of God and a soul begins at point of conception. They would say the life is most precious at the moment…

        Ultimately the conservative (catholic) anti-abortion position is deeply founded in theology. Logic and community always comes far down the list in importance.

  3. Stephen, above, alludes to a point that I wish Democrats would make more frequently– pro choice isn’t the opposite of pro-life. Pro-abortion is. Pro-choice is just that– you can choose life, or you can choose abortion.

    As to abortion, while I generally agree with your post, you overlook a critical aspect of the issue that, in fairness, is almost never brought up. I’ve always found it peculiar that Latinos and blacks are among the most anti-abortion factions in the population, despite their overwhelming support for Democrats and other liberal policies. Meanwhile the “pro-life” movement is peculiarly lily-white. The Paul Weyrich angle of this is well-known and well-work; you’ve written about it, as well.

    But there’s another, more sinister angle for why abortion is, at its core, one of the most racial issues in politics. In 2016, something happened that few people talked about, but that is critical for understanding the Trumpist moment. The American white population dropped below replacement level for the first time ever. Whites began dying at a faster rate than the rate of new births.

    Most whites, especially affluent whites (and affluent people in general) can afford the most effective forms of birth control (including abortion, if need be). They can travel to California, or New York, or the largest city in their state. Poorer women (read: minorities) can’t. So, the effect of “pro-life” politics is reinforcement of the status quo social structure. So, while there is most certainly the gender angle of men and working class women wanting to rein-in the sexual liberation available to the professional class and its women.

    However, there is a strong racial undercurrent that no one is really talking about: Abortions still kill more white babies than minority babies. The “pro-life” crowd is dependent on being pro-birth because the upshot is still that it produces more white babies.

    1. I know most minorities are socially conservative. And we are below (whites) replacement levels. I also have made the argument before most abortion are from upper class to middle class white women. The government does not pay for them. And if Roe vs Wade is overturned abortion will go to the states . Half of them would allow them. Women of means would drive or fly to where they are legal.

      1. There are a lot of misconceptions about abortion driven in part by women’s reluctance to share their stories.

        The highest incidence of abortion is among black women. Hispanics are second. White women, on a per capita basis, make up a much smaller percentage of America’s abortions.

        It makes sense. Regardless what you think of abortion, like chemotherapy it is always a remedy of last resort. Abortion is more common among women with fewer options to control their own lives. Three quarters of abortion payments report an income below the poverty line. Poverty, domestic violence, or just youthful misadventure are the most common preludes to abortion.

        https://www.guttmacher.org/infographic/2016/us-abortion-patients

        https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states

  4. This guy on the pro-life side gets it:

    “There is a moral component to Reno’s original piece, namely that he took a stick of dynamite and tossed it into the middle of the pro-life movement. If you care about the pro-life position, that is unfortunate and good luck getting traction the next time you try to argue that a woman should carry a baby to term, even if it imposes hardships on her. Reno’s essay is destined to be thrown in the faces of pro-lifers in much the same way that the feminist movement’s reaction to the Clinton impeachment was used to discredit it for a generation.”

    https://thebulwark.com/newsletter-issue/the-dangerous-foolishness-of-first-things/

    The pro-life movement removed any doubts about how “pro-woman” they really are when they decided to fall in line behind one of the worst troglodytes on the planet. It’s also been pointed out that this pandemic is hitting various minority communities (Black, Hispanic, Native American) disproportionately harder, and you have to wonder if the percentage of White victims were higher how much that would affect all these demonstrations agitating for an end to the lockdowns.

    I’m one of the Americans in the mushy middle between pro-life and pro-choice. I could see valid arguments from both sides, recognized that there was no perfect solution, and was of the opinion that there was at least some common ground, defined by the very pragmatic measures you mentioned above: preventing unwanted pregnancies, better medical care, better social safety net. I still support all of that, but I have washed my hands of any hopes of constructive engagement with the GOP/religious right on this. They are off the deep end and they’re not coming back.

  5. I’m going to send these two articles to my pompous senator, john kennedy.
    I am also going to suggest he get off his very high horse and visit one of the hospitals in New Orleans overrun by covid patients. He should also invite TX LtGov Patrick since both think this pandemic is a hoax.

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/how-does-coronavirus-kill-clinicians-trace-ferocious-rampage-through-body-brain-toes

    ‘It’s nonstop’: Inside the life of a New York City gravedigger during the coronavirus

  6. I am not pro abortion. Who in the heck is? But if you want to reduce them for real your policies would be the opposite of what Republican controlled governments do.

    We live in a fallen world. Sometimes sadly abortion is the least of the evils. I know cases like that. And mom was tore up pretty bad. Unless you live a very sheltered life you know them too.

    You can read in the Bible why you want the government out of this decision except to make it as easy as possible for a woman to say no to abortion. The story of Moses comes to mind. Because the Egyptians feared the growing population and might of the Israelites they murdered all baby boys. Something I fear if the nativist fascist movement gain enough control would be duplicated here. Either force sterilization or abortion of mainly brown and black women. A way to solve their demographic problem. A government that controls abortion can mandate them too. Just ask Chineses women.

    Look at what King Herod did to prevent an emergence of a competitive political power. KIlled all boys 2 years and older to stop Jesus from being a threat. No I do not trust any government including ours. And I expect dirty play until Republicans are swept out of power.

    Our recent history had forced sterilization of people deem inferior and at once time eugenics had a following of prominent politicians and business people in our country.

    This just on part of what you wrote Mr. Ladd. The after born taking care of human life you pretty well laid out. Frankly my faith is why I filed for divorce from the Republican party. There are more believers who think like me than noisy right wing evangelicals. But they do not garner press coverage. I think there is coming a religious backlash from the so called religious left. Plenty of us understand what Jesus taught and are disgusted with Trump and his party of grifters and corruption.

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