Stu­dents protest against abortion at this year’s March for Life. | Courtesy Facebook

If our nation’s gov­ernors want to save lives during the COVID-19 out­break, they must start by closing abortion clinics.

In my home state of Ten­nessee, Gov. Bill Lee closed all non-essential busi­nesses in his April 2 stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the novel coro­n­avirus that orig­i­nated in Wuhan, China last November. Abortion ser­vices, however, are still oper­ating. 

At first, I thought this couldn’t be true. Lee is a self-pro­claimed Christian, and not in the way many public figures are — the sort who call on a vague heavenly figure when it’s polit­i­cally advan­ta­geous. Con­sis­tently, Lee has been vocal about his Christian faith, has prayed pub­licly, and has attended church with many of his con­stituents. 

I called my local abortion clinic. While family friends have lost 100 percent of their revenue for the time being, and many bread­winners in my church com­munity are unsure how they’ll feed their fam­ilies this month now that their work is deemed non-essential, abortion clinics are still open. The only change these facil­ities have made is to perform initial con­sul­ta­tions over the phone rather than in person. During a pan­demic, it’s still con­sidered essential to end an unplanned preg­nancy.

This is unac­ceptable for any gov­ernor, but it’s espe­cially egre­gious for a Christian gov­ernor. 

The very purpose of these state-wide shut­downs is to save lives by lim­iting person-to-person contact. The imme­diate eco­nomic results are unde­niable. Every business across the nation has been kneecapped, and many have already gone under. It’s a tremendous cost to pay for life — but, we are told, it’s life. 

So why are we con­tinuing to end lives?

Ten­nessee state law requires any woman seeking an abortion to make two visits to the clinic. First for a con­sul­tation, then for the pro­cedure. Many other states have similar rules. Even with an over-the-phone con­sul­tation, every abortion pro­cedure exposes the woman getting the abortion, the guardian legally required to go with her, any nurses or recep­tionists in the facility, and the doctor per­forming the abortion to potential viral spread. No #sociald­is­tancing here. 

For this reason, among others, many medical pro­ce­dures have been deemed non-essential. Patients with cancer who had treat­ments scheduled in March have had to postpone them unless they are “essential,” i.e., life-saving. But if essential means life-saving, shouldn’t abortion facil­ities have been among the first to be closed?

One of my sisters needs her wisdom teeth removed. The dental surgeon is not allowed to perform the surgery unless she is in extreme pain, so in the meantime she has to wear a hockey-grade mouth­guard and deal with the dis­comfort, and he loses business. If she had an unwanted preg­nancy, however, a medical pro­fes­sional is all too eager to consult with her over the phone, bring her into the clinic between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., and perform the pro­cedure — for free.

Low-risk workers across the country are pro­hibited from working, yet thou­sands of unborn babies con­tinue to be killed. All claims about saving lives by sweeping state action ring hollow in the face of this glaring con­tra­diction.

Ten­nessee is not the only state turning a blind eye to this paradox. With the exception of Texas, every state con­tinues to allow them to be per­formed during the coro­n­avirus shut­downs. Just this week, the fifth circuit court in Texas upheld Gov. Gregg Abbott’s abortion ban during the pan­demic, but no other gov­ernor has been so coura­geous. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly jus­tified his author­i­tarian actions — and his decision to con­tinue dragging the New York economy into his­toric lows — by appealing to the sanctity of human life. But what he actually pre­serves is the sanctity of some humans’ lives over others. 

While Lee allows abor­tions to con­tinue in the state of Ten­nessee, his con­ception of human life is no dif­ferent than a pro-choice Democrat. 

By keeping abortion clinics open in the coro­n­avirus out­break, our gov­ernors have assumed the power to decide which lives will be saved and which will not. Unborn children are excluded from the list.

Carmel Kookogey is a junior studying pol­itics. She is a D.C. Cor­re­spondent for The Col­legian.