Texas’ COVID-19 Response: Ban Abortion, Kill Grandma

Top Texas officials, including Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, seem to think banning legal abortion and sacrificing the elderly are the best ways to combat the outbreak.

[Photo: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks during an event.]
According to Patrick, people over the age of 70 will just take care of themselves so younger people can get back to work so the stock market is saved. Bob Levey / Getty Images

For continuing coverage of how COVID-19 is affecting reproductive health, check out our Special Report.  

If you hate abortion and old people, Texas might be the place for you.

Monday was a sad day for Texas. It was bad enough that one day earlier, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered abortion providers to stop performing “medically unnecessary” abortions. But then on Monday, former talk-radio host turned conservative numpty Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) appeared on Fox News and laid out his plan for combatting the coronavirus. His plan, as it turns out, is absolutely morbid.

Just let old people die.

That’s it. That’s his plan.

The Grim Reaper of Texas went on Tucker Carlson’s show and said that to avoid crashing the economy and leaving future generations to deal with the economic fallout, grandparents would be willing to die. According to Patrick, people over the age of 70 will just take care of themselves so younger people can get back to work in order to save the stock market.

“As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that America loves for its children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said.

To which I say: By all means, Dan. Inject COVID-19 right between your toes and go into the light. But don’t drag other people’s parents and grandparents down with you.

This is the same Dan Patrick who is virulently opposed to abortion rights and was a staunch supporter of HB 2, the Texas omnibus anti-abortion bill, provisions of which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

Indeed, back in July 2013, when Texas lawmakers convened for a second special legislative session to try to pass HB 2—after pro-choice activists flooded the Texas capitol to protest the bill’s passage and former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis cemented herself in the annals of boss bitches—Patrick gave a barnburner of a speech about how God supports the passage of HB 2. He practically gave a sermon about how important it was for someone to stand up and speak for fetuses:

 We talked about the choice, you ask us, well don’t we put ourselves in the place of the woman and her choice, what choice does the baby have? Who speaks for the baby? Do you think if the mother had a conversation with the baby and said, “You know, this just isn’t really convenient to give birth to you right now, do you mind dying?”

He certainly seems willing to speak for the millions of seniors who don’t want to lay down and die so their grandkids can go back to work. But if that didn’t make your brain blow a gasket, check out what he said during the HB2 debate:

I don’t apologize for being pro-life and I don’t apologize for being a Christian, and I listen to the word of God on this issue. The Bible tells us we are born in the image of God, and I believe when a baby’s life is destroyed we are destroying the image of God. And there should be no one out there celebrating it. If they want to, fine. But I will never stand on this floor, and I will never cheer, and I will never support anyone who celebrates destroying the image of God.

Apparently, he will cheer destroying the image of God if that image is over the age of 70. Pro-life, my ass.

But wait, it gets better! Here’s what he said as he expounded upon the supposed Christian values which he holds so dear and which prevent him from permitting pregnant people in Texas to make their own reproductive choices:

If you believe God, how would God vote tonight if he were here? And I know I’ll get raked over by the liberal blogs and some people in the media for bringing this up on the floor, but let’s just be honest. Are we a nation that stands for a Judeo-Christian ethic, or are we not? Do we get down on our knees and pray when our children get sick, or when we have a tragedy in West, Texas, or 9/11, who do we turn to then?

Sure, Patrick made these comments several years ago. And maybe over those years, Christianity has evolved from healing the sick and loving thy neighbor into “it’s OK if old people die as long as Wall Street doesn’t suffer,” but somehow I don’t think that’s the case.

Patrick is a hypocrite. Like so many Christian evangelicals, he picks and chooses the parts of Christianity that suit him. Banning abortion so people can’t control when and whether to have children and how many to have, and claiming that someone has to speak for the fetus and that someone is you? That’s just good Christian values. Declaring that people over the age of 70 should just die already so young people can go back to work and keep the economy humming along for the benefit of the one percent?

That’s just good Christian values too.

Patrick will get down on his knees and pray when children get sick, but when people over the age of 70 get sick? Well, that’s too bad. You’ve lived a pretty full life. It’s time for you to take a permanent dirt nap for the good of Wall Street.

It would be funny if it weren’t so ghoulish. Patrick’s claim that this country should stop social distancing—which public health experts say is the only way to stop the spread of this virus—and that people over 70 should sacrifice their lives so younger people can get back to work to line the pockets of the one percent is demented. Especially because on the same day Patrick indicated he would be cool with some sort of passive genocide of elderly people, Abbott decried abortion care as “nonessential” and issued an executive order that all scheduled abortions be postponed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

And Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has threatened providers with jail time and fines if they violate the COVID-19 order. “No one is exempt from the governor’s executive order on medically unnecessary surgeries and procedures, including abortion providers,” Paxton said in a statement.

Last week, presumably knowing that anti-choice lawmakers would try to use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to shut down clinics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG), along with other reproductive health-care medical organizations, issued a joint statement stressing that abortion care is an essential health service:

Abortion is a critical component of comprehensive health care. It is also a time-sensitive service for which a delay of several weeks, or in some cases days, may increase the risks or potentially make it completely inaccessible. The consequences of being unable to obtain an abortion profoundly impact a person’s life, health, and well-being.

It shouldn’t need to be said that abortion is an essential health-care service, especially considering this country’s maternal mortality rate. According to Harvard Health Publishing, women in the United States are 50 percent more likely to die in childbirth than women 25 years ago. For Black women, the maternal mortality rate is even worse: Black women die in childbirth at a rate three or four times that of white women. Black women are 243 percent more likely to die in childbirth than white women, irrespective of education and class status.

Because COVID-19 is new, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has no idea how or whether it affects pregnant people. The CDC warns that it don’t know whether pregnant people have a greater chance of getting sick or whether they are more likely to have a serious illness as a result.

“Pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes which might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19,” the agency has said.

The CDC notes that “[p]regnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. With viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. It is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.”

The CDC also doesn’t know if COVID-19 can be passed from a pregnant person to a fetus or newborn.

While Abbott’s executive order permits abortions necessary to save the life or health of the mother, if the CDC doesn’t know how COVID-19 affects pregnant people, how is an abortion provider to know? How is an abortion provider to know whether a pregnant patient has COVID-19 since most people can’t get tested unless they’re in respiratory distress?

That doesn’t seem to matter in Texas. Or Ohio. Or any of the numerous states that will follow suit in using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to shutter abortion clinics under the guise of stopping the spread of the coronavirus.

Under normal circumstances, an executive order prohibiting abortions would be the subject of a lawsuit almost immediately. I would expect Whole Woman’s Health—a clinic that has long battled anti-choice lawmakers in Texas—to file a lawsuit challenging the executive order. But the court in which such a lawsuit would likely be filed—the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas—is closed. According to a March 20 order, all courts in the western district are closed, and all matters scheduled before May 1 are canceled. So it is unclear whether any provider could file a lawsuit and obtain an injunction against Abbott’s ban on most abortions.

Texas officials are exacerbating a health crisis, and in order to combat the existing health-care crisis, the state’s lieutenant governor is offering up seniors to take the hit.

“Pro-life” was always a lie. Anti-choicers like Patrick are pro-birth. After you’re born, you’re on your own. Anti-choicers will not help you and will, indeed, oppose any government program designed to help you. And if there’s a health-care crisis and you’re too old? Tough break, Gramps. Get in the coffin and go peacefully.