Column: Being pro-life has to be more than a slogan

abortion
"Stop the Bans" pro-choice rally, May 21, 2019 | Ken Coleman

As of this writing, almost 5,600 Michiganders have died as a result of the novel coronavirus. 

Those are people – living, breathing humans who had families and jobs and hopes and dreams. They’re gone, and hardly a word has been uttered on their behalf.

It’s disappointing, but not surprising, to see the “pro-life” conservatives in the Legislature and their allied interest groups using the pandemic as an opportunity to push their dangerous anti-health care, anti-science agenda. 

While hospitals were so overrun with dying patients that refrigerated trucks idled out front to accommodate the rapidly accumulating bodies of COVID-19 victims, legislative leaders issued press releases demanding that golf courses be opened. After a member of the state House of Representatives, Isaac Robinson, died from suspected COVID-19, those leaders insisted it was safe to meet in large groups, calling more than 150 lawmakers and staff back to Lansing to pass frivolous bills attacking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Susan J. Demas: Republicans are putting us all at risk. Maybe I don’t get how this whole pro-life thing works.

How’s that for pro-life?

Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups were livid that Planned Parenthood of Michigan health centers remained open, allowing people who needed basic reproductive health care, including  abortions – safe, legal medical procedures – to access them.

They issued press releases demanding we shut down and deny people essential medical care, including the birth control, STI testing and treatment, and other crucial health services.

Let’s be clear: Reproductive health care is essential. There is no more critical time for the care we provide than during a public health crisis. For many patients, our health centers are their only source for health care; the unfortunate reality is the pandemic has made existing barriers to care worse for many of the communities Planned Parenthood serves.

That’s why we’ve taken every possible action to keep as many of our health centers open as possible while protecting the safety of our patients and employees alike. It’s why we’ve rapidly begun offering telehealth services, including birth control, UTI treatment, and emergency contraception so our patients can access the urgent care they need without leaving home.  

Planned Parenthood offers telehealth services for birth control, UTIs

Yet, we all know that no matter what the totality of our work is, for the “pro-life” movement, it’s always about abortion. 

I’d argue that to be truly pro-life means to give everyone access to the tools they need to live healthy, happy lives – equal pay for equal work, paid sick time off, safe workplaces, high quality health care, basic civil rights. The services and care we provide are essential to helping Michiganders live healthy, happy lives of their choosing. 

There is an undeniable public and personal health benefit to diagnosing and treating an STI before it causes cervical cancer. I look around at anti-abortion groups and the conservatives in the Legislature, and I struggle to see how they’re living out their self-professed commitment to protecting the sanctity of life in the midst of this unprecedented health emergency.

It’s plain to see what they didn’t do – a single thing to make the lives of Michiganders easier as we worked to stop the virus tearing through our most vulnerable communities. 

I couldn’t be prouder of what Planned Parenthood of Michigan has been doing to protect the lives of the people in the communities we serve. We’ve ensured that essential health care is accessible and affordable — especially now with record numbers of unemployed people having lost their health care. And we’ve made certain that everyone who comes to our health centers and the dedicated people who work there are safe, following the governor’s social distancing, screening and mask requirements diligently.

Planned Parenthood president pans Detroit debates for ignoring reproductive rights

We’ve joined dozens of partners in coalition to connect communities with resources to weather job loss, illness and even the death of their loved ones. Together with our allies, we’ve provided grassroots community care and advocated for policies that prioritize the health and well-being of struggling Michiganders.

Planned Parenthood of Michigan has been a key part of the state’s public health infrastructure for 100 years, and it’s clear that we’re working to keep that social safety net strong during this crisis. 

I invite the entire pro-life community, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) to join us in helping the people of Michigan get the care and support they need to emerge from this pandemic ready to resume their lives.