Letters: Nov. 24, 2022

What lives do we protect?

The so-called “pro-life” movement is winning significant legislative battles in its assault on women’s reproductive rights. But the glut of newly adopted state laws regarding the termination of pregnancy and the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs reveal a dark irony regarding the pious stance of many “pro-life” adherents. No stone is left unturned to protect fertilized eggs, zygotes, blastocysts and embryos in a woman’s body. Yet there is dramatically less concern for the lives of those who have been born and are active as living, breathing human beings. Let us explore some ways this irony is expressed:

For example, many in the “pro-life” movement are COVID-19 deniers. Many have taken an anti-vaccine position and/or an anti-mask, anti-distancing position. We know beyond a doubt that recognition of the COVID-19 virus and dealing with it through vaccination, masking and distancing has saved lives – many, many lives. We know that failure to adhere to these simple public health practices has likewise resulted in a large number of deaths. Those who in favor of their own “rights” deny, oppose and act irresponsibly with respect to the pandemic have been acquiescent, if not complicit, in those deaths.

Aggressively “pro-life” Republican legislative majorities in Wisconsin have from the beginning refused to accept federal Medicaid expansion funds included in the Affordable Care Act. That has amounted to a sum in excess of $2 billion dollars in healthcare resources that have been denied to our low-income fellow citizens. Those funds would have saved many, many lives around the state especially in rural areas. Ironically, the dollars paid into that program by Wisconsin taxpayers are redistributed to other states. Those who oppose Medicaid expansion are acquiescent, if not complicit, in those deaths.

Many in the “pro-life” movement support the death penalty and would like to see it restored in Wisconsin. Around the country there have been 1,532 executions in the last 50 years. During that same period 185 death row inmates have been exonerated prior to execution. Most of those cases have occurred in the past few years since heightened efforts to assist condemned innocents have been undertaken. What about before that? How many innocents were murdered? How many still? Pro death penalty advocates are acquiescent, if not complicit, in those deaths.

Climate change deniers – and there seem to be many among Republicans on the “pro-life” side of things – ignore the growing toll taken by wind, fire, flood, drought and other extreme weather events. Year on year the number of deaths rises here and around the world. Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with other human impacts are ridiculed and opposed. The science is clear, and even the oil companies knew at least 44 years ago that we can anticipate death on a mass scale. Denial is acquiescence, if not complicity, in those deaths.

“Pro-life” very often equates with pro-gun purism. Any effort to adopt measures to appropriately regulate the right to own and use lethal weapons is passionately opposed. That notwithstanding the 2nd Amendment’s requirement that the right to “keep and bear arms” be “well regulated.” In 2020 there were 45,222 deaths from gun-related injuries – the most ever on record in the United States. In Wisconsin the toll was 717 – again the most. One would think that would demand action. Pro-gun absolutists are acquiescent, of not complicit, in the gun-death toll.

Those who attacked the police and the Congress at the capitol in Washington DC on Jan. 6 included numerous “pro-life” advocates. Five people were killed and nearly 150 capitol police went down with injuries – some permanent. Little is heard from the “pro-life” side about these deaths occurring in what is sometimes dismissed as something typical of a “tourist visit.” Those who sit silently by and excuse this sedition are acquiescent, if not complicit, in its death toll.

There is one final irony here. It brings us back to the fertilized eggs, zygotes, blastocysts and embryos that the “pro-life” forces favor over all other forms of life. During the in vitro medical procedure, designed to bring children to families unable to conceive normally, surplus embryos are created. Some of those are implanted in the womb of the woman (including perhaps a “pro-life” woman) undergoing the procedure. Others may be donated or frozen. The rest are simply destroyed. We hear little or no outcry about the fate of these embryos from the “pro life” adherents even though they are identical to those destroyed in a terminated pregnancy. It is a case of selective acquiescence and complicity. 

Perhaps irony is too soft a word. Perhaps hypocrisy is a better fit.
Theron O’Connor 
Bayfield, Wisconsin

You don’t say

One self-driven man managed to saturate our political spectrum with a venomous tongue that nearly brought our democracy to a halt. By posturing as a victim he charmed and alarmed the disenchanted to follow suit to their eventual dismay.
Gerald Norrgard
Duluth, Minnesota