Who’d have imagined that the sudden conservative push to lift coronavirus protection measures would have a clear overlap with their desire to restrict women’s rights to their own reproductive systems? And who would have predicted that the overlap would be an ideological inconsistency?¹
It would appear that the consensus among conservative Americans at this point is that the best possible course of action moving forward is to “re-open the economy”. That sentence is hard to type because putting sarcasm quotes within quotes is difficult. “re-open” is a bit confusing because nothing was really ever closed, in a defininitive sense, and “the economy” is also here very confusing because it’s such a massively vague term. However, we are not here for semantics.
The make things a little more coherent: the conservative view seems, broadly, to be that it would be best for America if all of the coronavirus-related restrictions were lifted and everyone were sent back to work. (If there’s still a work there to go back to, of course!) There are a lot of details in how that would be implemented that nobody has entirely shored up, but again, this isn’t the specific thing we’re going to examine.
What’s most startling (or, if you’re as cynical as your loving author is: not startling in the least) is that the justification for all of this is that the number of people who will die as a result is negligable.
A neat feature of the word “negligable” is that it’s always a relative thing. In some cases, the argument is that the number of deaths from returning to work will be negligable in relation to the number of deaths that would occur under continuation under more or less the regime we’re seeing now.² Sometimes the argument is that the number of deaths will be negligable in relation to the number of deaths that supposedly will result from a recession.³ In some cases it’s in relation to some other obscure factoid or fabricated nonsense.
Whatever the case, we must be clear: this is advocating for an active choice that will result — knowingly! — in people’s deaths.
Now, consider also that a very big part of conservative ideology is the belief that abortion is bad and should be outlawed immediately and forthwith.
This is a difficult philosophical conundrum, isn’t it?
The idea seems to be that, when valuing a human life in the context of restricting a woman’s reproductive rights, conservatives argue emphatically that life is without measure; the single most important thing in existence.
Unless, apparently, the economy is in trouble. If it effects the profits of the very wealthy, then of course the price of a human life is perfectly quantifiable, in dollars and cents, and it is not even worth very much.⁴
If this author were not, as has been mentioned, so cynical, it would be quite confusing to them to understand how this apparent contradiction has cropped up. How is it possible that conservatives can spend so much time expounding upon the value of a single human life and then, in an instant, turn right round and argue that alright, so, maybe a lot of people will die, but it’s worth it?
The answer is obviously that the supposed “sanctity of human life” is less something they believe in firmly, and more a useful philosophical weapon they can use to rally themselves into championing regressive reforms.
To drive this point home and really illustrate the ridiculousness, consider this thought experiment: at present, as a direct result of the measures taken to protect citizens from the coronavirus, Texas has managed to effectively ban abortions. The legal theory is that since elective procedures were done away with in order to maintain the highest available capacity for doctors to treat those suffering from the coronavirus, abortion — being an elective procedure — was also thrown out. It’s vile, but it’s also neat and tidy⁵ in a depressing sort of way.
This leaves conservatives in a situation where they must consolidate “sanctity of all human life” with the available options. Essentially, they will have to choose which “life” they consider more valuable, at least in the state of Texas. Those options?
- Eliminate the current measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus. This is the option that will allow “the economy” to be “open” again. Everyone can return to work, spread the virus, and living human beings will die. That’s definitely a choice that causes a loss of human life! However, it also means that elective surgery will be legal again, which means people will be allowed to terminate their pregnancies again, which is — to conservatives — even more of a loss of sanctified human life.
- Maintain the current measures. In this case, the spread of the virus is curtailed significantly, leading to a more rapid eradication of the virus, as well as a drastic decrease in the loss of life. It also means that elective procedures are still restricted, meaning the complete ban on abortions is upheld. Even worse, it means that travel to other states is highly restricted, so although the neighboring clinics may be able to terminate a pregnancy, women cannot actually get to them.
In a perverse sense, at least in the test-case of Texas, maintaining the present measures meant to curb the spread of the virus and prevent the loss of human life is kind of a double-whammy. So why are conservatives suddenly anxious to end those measures?
The answer can only be selfishness and duplicity. They never cared about human life in the first place and now that their overlords are losing money, they are anxious to do whatever they can to appease them. If that means sending themselves and their fellow Americans back to toil for wages and spread a deadly disease, then so be it. Even television “doctors” are getting in on this game.
That is concerning!
It is also not surprising. It is not surprising at all. The only people it would be surprising to are those who allow themselves to take the charitable view of conservatives and christians. They are not our friends, they do not care about anyone else but themselves, and they will cut your throat at the first opportunity to save or appease themselves.
¹ The savvy reader will have noticed that this is not actually an ideological inconsistency. Conservatives are remarkably ideologically consistent in their behaviors: displaying total contempt for the rights of individuals over their own lives, and a thorough disregard for the value of human life at all. However, it can appear to be an ideological inconsistency because what conservatives say and what they do are often quite decoupled from one another. Their language would make this seem ideologically inconsistent, but their actions would prove that it’s nothing more than par for the course.
² This is a weird one. Just, you’re comparing two sets of entirely hypothetical numbers. It’s dumb.
³ This one is hilarious to your loving author because it is essentially acknowledging that in a poor economy people die as a result of a poorly set up system of government and economy which doesn’t support the members of our society who are in need. It then argues that because that system is so awful and will actually kill people — or at very least simply stand by and watch as it happens “naturally” — we must do everything we can to make sure it survives.
⁴ As a side note, one should also note that this is the same sort of ridiculous idea that conservatives use to keep voluntary euthanesia — also called “death with dignity” — out of the hands of terminally ill or suffering patients. They will yell until they are blue in the face that human life is invaluable and terminating that life at the patient’s request, or because permanent life support would be cruel, is a travesty.
⁵ It’s also precisely the sort of thing you get when you panic and hand power over to the wrong people, but that’s as may be.