Opinion

WALSH: A Shutdown That Could Save A Million Lives Every Year

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ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 31: The exterior of a Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen on May 31, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. In the wake of Missouri recent controversial abortion legislation, the states' last abortion clinic is being forced to close by the end of the week. Planned Parenthood is expected to go to court to try and stop the closing. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images

A common retort to conservatives who advocate opening up the economy is that we are betraying our pro-life principles. This charge is clearly absurd for a number of reasons. First of all, one of our primary arguments is that shutting down society is probably not the most effective way of saving lives. Many people are still dying of the virus during the shut down, many will likely die whenever the shut down is lifted (even the most ardent shutdown proponent must admit that it has to be lifted at some point), and on top of that toll we now add the lives destroyed by the collapse of the economy.

All told, it is reasonable to worry that the cost in human death and suffering will be greater because of the shutdown than it would have been had we adopted preventive measures while keeping the economy going. You may disagree with this argument, but it is obviously not an argument that denies the value of human life.

Also, nobody who criticizes the strategy of willfully plunging the nation in to a Great Depression is suggesting that the elderly and others most susceptible to the virus should be directly killed. We are merely suggesting that there are other and better ways of protecting those populations, and that the enormous cost of our current method is far too high and the pay off is far too uncertain. By contrast, advocates of abortion support the direct and purposeful killing of vulnerable people at the earliest stages of life. That is a very different sort of position to take. Even if anti-shutdown people were to argue that the elderly aren’t worth protecting — and that is most definitely not what we are arguing — we’d be taking a stance that would look positively Ghandian in comparison to those who openly celebrate the medical execution of infant.

That brings us to an important point. The flip side of the erroneous “you anti-shutdown people are contradicting your pro-life views” accusation is that a great many of the pro-shutdown people actually are contradicting their pro-abortion views. As I’ve explained, it is possible for a reasonable person to affirm the inherent value of human life while arguing that the shutdowns are unwise. Indeed, a reasonable person can argue the latter not in spite of the former, but on the basis of it. What I can’t see, on the other hand, is how a person can argue that it is just and proper to intentionally kill a million humans every year for the sake of preserving the lifestyle of the parents, and then also argue that we must destroy the lifestyles and livelihoods of millions of people in order to preserve human life. There seems to be a logical disconnect here. The latter argument can only potentially make sense if human life has inherent value, while the former can only potentially make sense if human life has subjective and conditional value. So, which is it?

The pro-shutdown camp declares that every life has value and every life is worth saving. I agree with them, but the odd thing is that so many of them don’t agree with them. They do not appear to have a coherent perspective on human life and its value. And that is how we end up in this morbidly ironic situation, where a society that kills a million babies a year for convenience has shut itself down to prevent the elderly from dying. If there is any principle to be found here, it would seem to be that adult life is more valuable and worthy of protection than the lives of children. That is, of course, incoherent. Not to mention morally abominable and backwards. All life has value, but a healthy society is far more willing to accept the death of adults than the death of children. Adults must die eventually, after all. Children should not. Least of all should they die by our own hands.

But perhaps I am being too cynical. I must leave open the possibility that all of the pro-abortion people who are now applauding the ruination of our economy — because even a sacrifice as extraordinary as that is worth it “just to save one life,” supposedly — may have experienced a dramatic change of heart. Maybe this is not hypocrisy or inconsistency but a sign that a new leaf has been turned. Maybe they have discovered within themselves, for the first time, a real passion for defending the worth and dignity of human life. In that case, I welcome them to the pro-life team. And I would like to suggest that if we are pursuing a policy of shutdowns to save lives, we only need to close one type of business. It’s the one that kills a million babies a year in this country. We can argue about the other shutdowns, but anyone who really wants to protect human life should agree that this is the best place to start.

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