David G. Bonagura, Jr.: COVID restrictions have exposed the privacy/liberty “right” to abort as what’s it always been: an arbitrary government edict.
The irony is sickening. For decades we have heard the shrieks in defense of abortion and birth control: “Keep the government out of my uterus!” “My body, my choice!” “No woman can call herself free,” said Margaret Sanger, “who does not control her own body.”
Democratic politicians have long supported abortion with this line of reasoning. Most recently, in signing the Reproductive Health Act into law in 2019, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo declared that “women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.” Out West, seeking codification of Roe v. Wade into the laws of California, Oregon, and Washington, Governors Newsom, Brown, and Inslee, in a joint letter, defined “reproductive choice” as “the right to make private decisions about one’s body,” and asserted that to intrude upon that choice “is a fundamental violation of individual liberty and freedom.”
Flash forward to 2020. These same governors have imposed the most restrictive measures in the nation to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Suddenly, the right to control one’s own body is no longer sacrosanct; individual liberty, touted so righteously just a year earlier, must now be curbed. These governors, along with others, have ordered their citizens to mask their faces, to limit the number of people in their homes, not to worship God in churches, not to exercise their bodies in gyms. In short, they have swiftly and systematically deprived their citizens of the very same “fundamental right to control their own bod[ies]” that they celebrate under another banner.
How far will this encroachment go? In New York, the governor decreed that food must be served in order to purchase alcohol. When one bar started offering “Cuomo Chips” as the plat du jour, the governor countered by mandating that “a substantial amount of food” must go into one’s body to drink alcohol.
Then, in October, New York released its “Mirco-Cluster Strategy” that sets thresholds at which schools must issue mandatory COVID tests to students. In essence, the government is forcing school personnel to poke into the bodies of minors, without their parents’ present. If parents object to testing their kids, the students are barred from attending school.
How can these “champions” of the right to control one’s body justify their blatant hypocrisy?
“COVID is a different matter,” they would surely say in reply. “We are protecting public health. With these measures we are saving lives.”
So we ask: in order to be consistent, shouldn’t the government ban abortion, if saving lives is so important?
We would then hear a sermon asserting women’s right to privacy, since abortion supporters must quickly shift the conversation away from the humanity of the child in utero. Advocating killing is seldom a winning argument. So they change the topic, masking abortion’s grim reality with the rhetoric of freedom, choice, and privacy.
Which returns the governors to their dilemma: How can the choice to have an abortion be protected under the penumbras of privacy but the choice of who comes over for Thanksgiving and Christmas be restricted for reasons of public health?
The governors, though, have lined up for yet another merry-go round ride. “If we don’t act now we’ll continue to see our death rate climb,” said Governor Newsom. Preventing the death of children in utero, it seems by extension, is not state interest. The message is clear: a government purportedly so concerned with saving lives has decided that only some lives are worth saving.
The severity and swiftness with which these governors have imposed COVID restrictions expose just how specious the abortion argument is. Its legality hinges entirely on an act of raw government power. We knew this in the past, but now, thanks to COVID, we feel it on our faces and up our noses. The government cannot with a straight face say that women can control their bodies when it comes to abortion, but not when it comes to going to school.
Abortion has never been about privacy or liberty. Unlike COVID prescriptions, outlawing abortion requires no intrusion into women’s lives or bodies, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary. In fact, abortion prevents the normal and healthy process of pregnancy from continuing – an odd choice when we are told that health is the government’s top priority. In fact, abortion is about ensuring that the sexual revolution has no consequences, and for this the government has declared it a compelling state interest.
To assert a “right to control one’s body” where it does not exist, as Roe did in legalizing abortion, is a lie. To continue to defend abortion on these same grounds while intruding into private homes and into the bodies of citizens to stop the pandemic transforms a lie into hypocrisy. “But COVID is different!” – is no defense at all. If the government wants to suspend livelihoods and poke into bodies to protect life, it has no choice but to protect all life, from womb to tomb.
The discussion now has to shift back to the humanity of the child in utero, where the governors and abortion supporters do not want to go. The “right to control one’s body” on the grounds of privacy and personal liberty argument has been exposed as an arbitrary government edict. We can then turn to science, which the governors claim to honor, but regularly flout, to finish the discussion, since science shows that a new human life begins at conception and is, therefore, unequivocally on the pro-life side.
David G Bonagura, Jr.
David G. Bonagura Jr. teaches at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism (Cluny Media).
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