I write this from my home in North Carolina, not having seen (in person) anyone outside of my family (except the postman) for almost two weeks. Our governor has issued a stay-at-home order for April. Like many other places in the country, most everything here is shut down, with the exception of businesses deemed essential. Many are at home reading about how to stay clear of COVID-19. All hands are on deck. We know the danger and are taking it seriously.
Well, almost everyone. Some, deemed unlikely to die or have serious complications from the virus, have been a little harder to persuade, as the pictures of packed Florida beaches at spring break attest. One part of the problem is the sense of invulnerability often found in the young. Another is that many people haven’t appreciated that should they contract COVID-19, while they may be fine, they could still endanger others with whom they come into contact.
Which leads to a question I have asked myself: Why hasn’t abortion gripped the country as COVID-19 has? Has abortion ever gripped the country as COVID-19 has? The most ominous projections of the death toll from the virus approximate the number of deaths each year from abortion. From another angle, the number we have lost in the last two months to COVID-19 is less than the number that we lose in two days to abortion. Yet life under abortion has gone on normally for close to fifty years, with only few on deck——a relative handful of devoted people working to see those numbers drop. Even while we admit we don’t like it very much, the truth is most of us are largely unconcerned with abortion numbers.
Perhaps it is because abortion threatens somebody else. No one reading this—indeed no one capable of reading this——needs to fear he or she will be slain in the womb. Those who have survived birth are (in a manner of speaking) immune to abortion. That threat has passed. We are, of course, vulnerable to a whole host of other dangers, COVID-19 being one of them, dangers that understandably and rightly call for our attention. Those who are vulnerable to abortion, the unborn themselves, know not their danger (the death rate for those who inhabit the womb is roughly 25 percent higher than the projected 1-2 percent death rate for COVID-19) and would be unable to cry out for themselves even if they did. In many cases, their existence is not even known by others.
But we know what is happening. Perhaps as a country, we are more like those careless spring-breakers than we’d care to admit. The Bible calls it sin—the attitude that life is all about me, lived without concern for my neighbor. It is tempting to ignore things that do not threaten me personally, particularly if they impinge on how I want to live.
The lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis are legion, if we pay attention. We are becoming aware of how vulnerable we really are, not just to disease, but to life apart from one another. I need to work, and I need my neighbor to work, because I depend on him and he depends on me. And I also need my neighbor to look out for me when I cannot work. And vice versa. Some things don’t change much. We may appear to be self-sufficient, but we are as dependent upon others as we have ever been, even as far back as the womb. Recognizing our mutual dependency matters.
If we learn anything during this time of difficulty and danger, hopefully it will be that we are our brother’s keeper. And learning this, perhaps we will also realize that our neighbor is not just the elderly woman next door, but her great grandson (the unborn child we may never meet), and her granddaughter, who is agonizing over his presence.