- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2020

Abortion rights advocates are attacking pro-life leaders as hypocrites because they have called for reopening the economy during coronavirus outbreaks even if that means more elderly people could die of the disease.

“These times make crystal clear what we’ve always known: for so many of these officials, ‘pro-life’ is a smoke screen, not a commitment that they care to uphold,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a written statement.

The NARAL-Pro Choice America Foundation this week announced a digital ad campaign in Georgia, Maine, Texas, Iowa and Washington, D.C. It spotlights pro-life supporters, such as Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who have called for businesses to reopen despite the health risks for older people.

The 15-second ad ends with the phrase, “‘Pro-Life’ politicians really aren’t.”

Pro-life groups scoff at the charges of hypocrisy and say the campaign isn’t going to sway Americans, many of whom do not trust abortion rights advocates.

Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster told The Washington Times that she thinks the debate pitting the health of the elderly against young persons is a false one.

“We support everybody from the womb to the tomb,” Ms. Foster said.

She said that governors need to make individual decisions about reopening their states’ businesses and that “life” issues including mental health, the rise in domestic abuse and the deteriorated working conditions for health care workers have focused her group’s attention during the pandemic.

“They’ feel like they’re competing priorities: your health vs. the economy. But they are one in the same,” Ms. Foster said.

The rhetoric reached a flashpoint Wednesday, when conservative podcast host Ben Shapiro cited actuarial tables to suggest that a society should be more concerned with a pandemic infecting young people rather than older ones.

“If Grandma dies at a nursing home at age 81, it’s tragic, and it’s terrible, also life expectancy is 80,” Mr. Shapiro said during his podcast. “In moral terms, you want to save every life you can. At the same time, to pretend that … it is the same calculation [whether someone is 81 or 30] … no public policy acts like that.”

Liberal commentators pounced on Mr. Shapiro’s remark on social media, with some noting that conservatives such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had disparaged Obamacare’s voluntary Medicare counseling proposal as “death panels.” Others pointed to Mr. Shapiro’s past support for abortion restrictions.

“I thought these idiots were pro-life,” tweeted Susan E. Rice, former national security adviser in the Obama administration.

The rhetorical exchanges “surprised” Carole Joffe, a sociologist who studies the reproductive health debate at University of California, San Francisco. She said she did not expect a frank conversation of actuarial tables that “express a willingness to let the elderly risk death.”

“Surprised because for many years the major issue of the anti-abortion movement after abortion has been opposition to physician-assisted suicide and end of life measures in hospitals that hasten very ill patients’ deaths,” Ms. Joffe said in an email.

However, Ms. Joffe said she doubted NARAL’s ad campaign would sway people in a “very crowded news environment.”

Meanwhile, the mantra of a “whole life” value — protecting life at its earliest and latest stages — is common among many anti-abortion groups that also oppose euthanasia, the death penalty and, in some instances, the use of military force.

In early April, three leading voices on “life” issues within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops warned against rationing coronavirus protocols when “there are only so many beds and so many supplies” that would sideline the elderly.

“Foremost in our approach to limited resources is to always keep in mind the dignity of each person and our obligation to care for the sick and dying,” said the statement from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Missouri; and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City.

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