Opinion: the Republican Party flips from pro-life to pandemic pro-choice
Updated: May 27
Protestors gathered at the Ohio Statehouse to demand Republican Governor Mike DeWine lift the state’s social distancing rules. Photo courtesy: Paul Becker, creative commons (Flickr)
States across the nation are experiencing “stay-at-home” protests where thousands of Americans are affirming their opposition to state shutdowns amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Citizens are taking to the streets in states like Kentucky, Ohio and California to protest their governors’ decisions to shut down and stay indoors to help curb the growing spread of COVID-19. A majority of the protesters in these and other states forsook protective gear and ignored social distancing guidelines while participating in the demonstrations.
The nationwide protests occurred alongside President Donald Trump’s series of instigative tweets calling for the “liberation” of individual states. The tweets ultimately suggest that Americans should take advantage of states' autonomy in coronavirus-related decisions to push their governors to reopen their states.
President Trump’s outspoken desire to quickly reopen the country despite rising COVID-19 cases and deaths foments civil unrest and rebellion, putting Americans at greater risk of viral infection.
“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your 2nd Amendment,” President Trump stated in a tweet on April 17. He posted similar provocative tweets for the states of Minnesota and Michigan, all of which have Democratic governors, seemingly using the pandemic to undermine his party’s adversaries.
A majority of these lockdown protesters were conservative Republicans who can be seen wearing “Trump” merchandise during the demonstrations. “Make America Great Again” hats and flags were raised as a nod to the conservative narrative to end lockdown conditions for the sake of economic and civil liberties.
The irony is that the Republicans who believe these stay-at-home orders are “non-consensual” invasions of their constitutional rights and individual freedoms compose the same voting bloc that adamantly protested against abortion rights in 2017.
While looking to appease pro-life Republicans a month after entering office, President Trump banned all U.S. funding to organizations that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood. Patients who depend on public health care were prohibited from receiving abortions and other services.
He later unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate the end of Planned Parenthood-provided abortions in exchange for the preservation of the establishment’s funding, though the organization and women’s health advocates swiftly rejected the deal.
President Trump’s decision caused states across the country to selectively cut funding to Planned Parenthood, prompting nationwide protests both for and against the organization. Conservative Republicans and Trump supporters were among those who fought to end public funding of abortions and the service of abortions in its entirety.
While pro-choice Americans felt that the government’s involvement in the intimate, and exclusively female, decision of abortion was an intrusion of basic American freedom, conservatives believed it was the right and moral obligation of the government to enact legislation that preserved life.
Many pro-life supporters reused the commandment “Thou shall not kill” to attest to their condemnation of abortion. This same sentiment however, is greatly applicable today.
The executive orders to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary is a means of preventing unintended viral spreading that could potentially lead to death. Knowingly encouraging and participating in mass public gatherings increases the likelihood of COVID-19 contagion and subsequent deaths, violating the very premise used to villainize abortion.
If conservatives truly believe it’s the government’s job to preserve American life despite infringing upon intimate liberties, they should adhere to their states’ social distancing guidelines until they are lifted.
Any frustration with these infringements may otherwise be channelled to echo the voices of pro-choice supporters who understand the struggle of riding the fence between governmental precaution and intrusion.
By Haley Hartner