Covid19 is a dangerous virus, fatal for many. No one can know what the final death toll will be. It is therefore a requirement both of prudence (to avoid becoming infected oneself) and justice (to avoid infecting others) to take serious but reasonable precautions. There is legitimate debate on what that should mean in practice, and for how long. But what is not up for debate is that every human life is precious, and we are especially aware of that in regard to our close family, friends, and co-workers.
At the same time, it is not heartless—quite the opposite—to reflect on the Covid 19 virus, which is fatal almost exclusively to those who have already lived long lives, and to compare it with another contemporaneous cause of death, one which takes the lives of those who will never experience life outside the womb.
Perhaps surprisingly, by the end of the day on March 25th the new coronavirus will be responsible for 173 net lives gained in the United States.
On March 17th, the state of Ohio declared that surgical abortions do not qualify as “essential care”. On March 23rd, the state of Texas issued the same declaration.
In 2017, the last year for which data is available, there were 20,893 abortions in Ohio and 55,440 abortions in Texas. On average, there were more than 150 abortions per day in Texas and 57 per day in Ohio.
By March 25th, the Ohio ban will have been in effect for 8 days, and the Texas ban for two days. Approximately 456 deaths due to abortion will have been prevented in Ohio and 300 lives saved in Texas, for a total of 756 deaths prevented.
On March 24th, there had been 9 Covid19 fatalities in Texas and 6 in Ohio, for net gains in those states of 291 lives and 450 lives respectively. There were 583 Covid19 fatalities in the US, for a net gain of 173 lives. By the end of the week there will be twice as many lives saved as deaths due to Covid19.
These calculations have some margin of error. Average abortions per day is not the same as actual abortions on any given day. Some women will simply postpone their abortions until the ban is no longer in effect. Others may travel to a nearby state. And Covid19 deaths per day will increase until a peak is reached, and no one can be certain when that inevitable peak will occur.
Nevertheless, it is certain that at this stage of the epidemic, more lives have been saved than lost. Every human life is precious; but the death rate in the United States as a result of Covid19 and the societal response to it is certainly negative.
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