Soon after a state of emergency was declared due to Covid-19, antiabortion supporters began spreading this statement, particularly on Planned Parenthood posts (which have since been deleted by Planned Parenthood moderators):
“If COVID-19 forces Planned Parenthood to be closed for two weeks, the virus will have SAVED more lives than it has taken.”
The logic being that a temporarily shut down of Planned Parenthood due to the Covid-19 pandemic would suspend abortion services, resulting in no abortion related deaths during that time period. Antiabortion supporters believe the amount of lives that would be saved from abortion related death during this Covid-19 related shut down would be greater than the total amount of lives Covid-19 has taken.
At the time of this writing, Covid-19 has taken the lives of 3,164 people in the United States this year. (And the numbers are rapidly rising. When I started writing this blog post a week ago, the death toll was 700. A couple days ago when I was finishing up writing this post in Microsoft Word, it was 1,750. The number were 3,156 as I transferred everything to WordPress. It had changed to 3,164 while adding the embedded links.)
How many women have died from abortion complications in 2020 so far? Zero.
How many women have died from abortion complications between 1998-2010? 108. The death toll of Covid-19, which has occurred in a couple months, is almost 30x more than abortion related deaths over a 12 year time period.
While antiabortion supporters may believe that fetuses are people and that abortion is the leading cause of death in America, fetuses aren’t included in death statistics because they’re not considered people. But as far as antiabortion supporters are concerned, fetuses and actual people are exactly the same. The statement that Covid-19 will save more people than it has taken if Planned Parenthood were to be shut down due to the pandemic is only correct if you believe there isn’t a difference between fetal life and actual people.
…or is it?
The hypothetical scenario assumes that Planned Parenthood would be shut down for two weeks. There’s nothing that indicates that Planned Parenthood wouldn’t resume normal operations after that two week shut down. What would stop women who are early in their pregnancies from obtaining abortions after that two week time period is over?
Although Planned Parenthood is the biggest single abortion provider, they only perform a little over a third of the total number of abortion procedures. As the meme specifically targets Planned Parenthood, the other abortion providers that perform the other 2/3 of all abortions aren’t mentioned. Therefore we could assume other abortion providers would be open. What’s stopping women who have the means from going to an independent abortion provider, even in a different state?
Putting a stop to abortion services wouldn’t stop abortions. Abortion methods have existed since sex and rape. The earliest recorded abortion method is in a 1500 BC Egyptian scroll describing a fiber tampon coated with honey and crushed dates meant to induce miscarriage. Besides centuries of unusual and often unsafe ways of ending a pregnancy, women can now go online to buy the pills you would get at an abortion provider for a medication abortion. What would stop desperate women from using methods of self-induced abortion?
Covid-19 may also lead to more unwanted pregnancies, especially if they shut down a provider that gives contraceptives and people weren’t able to stock up on contraceptives. In a perfect scenario people would practice social distancing and not even think about touching each other let alone have unprotected sex, but being quarantined and not being able to go out anywhere has the effect of making people go stir crazy. It’s unrealistic to expect couples that are stuck together at home to not have sex out of boredom and, yes, some might not even worry about protection in the heat of the moment. With restrictions relating to stopping the spread of Covid-19 putting a lot of people out of work, Covid-19 is likely creating financial situations where people cannot afford a child and those people may resort to aborting pregnancies rather than giving birth. What would stop women in lack luster financial situations from having an abortion after Planned Parenthood reopens in the hypothetical two weeks, going to an open abortion provider, or resorting to self-induced and possibly unsafe abortion methods?
The isolating and stress inducing qualities of self-quarantines and lock downs are also creating worst case scenarios for women in domestically abusive relationships, which may include sexual abuse. If women in those situations get pregnant during this pandemic and they want to abort a pregnancy brought on by their abuser, what’s stopping them from waiting for Planned Parenthood to reopen, going to a different provider that’s still open, or doing it themselves?
It seems Covid-19 shutting down Planned Parenthood for a couple weeks would only delay abortions at best (assuming women didn’t decide to go to an independent provider) and, at worst, would create situations that would lead to more unplanned pregnancies and abortions—possibly unsafe abortions.