Author archives: Quena Gonzalez

Valuing Life, Economic Productivity, and Human Flourishing in the Age of Coronavirus

by Quena Gonzalez

March 27, 2020

At this writing, every governor has issued an emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus and almost all are recommending or requiring that non-essential businesses be temporarily closed. This is, predictably, wrecking havoc on the economy; weekly jobless claims have shot up to a record 3.3 million. For policymakers committed to protecting human life and promoting human flourishing, this raises a dilemma: How do we balance protecting human life (by slowing the spread of the virus) with promoting human flourishing (by avoiding unnecessarily crippling those same people economically)?

The concern for human life is real: The current data suggests that the novel coronavirus is much more contagious than, say, the seasonal flu, which the CDC estimates caused nearly half a million hospitalizations and more than 34,000 deaths in the 2018-2019 flu season. We’ve all seen the government warnings about the coronavirus, that the most at-risk populations include people aged 65 years or older and people with underlying medical conditions.

But the concern about human flourishing is real, too: We are called to work, and we are commanded to provide for our families, to care for the poor, and to contribute financially to the work of the church. Forbidding wide swaths of the workforce from working has spiritual as well as economic implications. Furthermore, the current government-mandated economic shutdown disproportionately impacts the poor, many of whom either work for hourly wages or in the service sector; often, those least able to afford loss of income have born the economic brunt of “shelter in place” policies.

Faced with the threat of a tsunami of sick patients overwhelming our health care system, our initial national response has tended to err on the side of protecting human life. (As a committed pro-life activist and the parent of a young, at-risk child, that makes a lot of sense to me.) But I’ve noticed an emerging debate between people who are beginning to question the wisdom of an ongoing total economic shutdown and those who continue to argue that we must protect human life, almost at any cost. The debate is exceedingly difficult because of the asymmetric nature of the threats: the immediate or near-term loss of life to hundreds of thousands on one side, vs. the medium-term loss of livelihood to potentially tens of millions on the other. Unsurprisingly, the debate seems to be escalating rapidly along partisan and ideological lines, with both sides talking past each other.

What is a pro-life policymaker to make of this?

Yuval Levin (former executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics and special advisor for domestic policy to President George W. Bush) brings a welcome, calm evaluation in The Atlantic of where we are, and suggests a broad direction for next steps (emphasis added):

America has mobilized against the coronavirus in some impressive ways. Although we have faced problems and failures—the botched testing rollout, the immense challenges now confronting the health system—we have also seen an extraordinary transformation of our way of life in short order. People have largely accepted the necessity of social distancing and the burdens of shutting down huge swaths of the economy. We have seen real models of leadership, particularly at the state level. And even members of Congress have been working together and negotiating.

But so far, that mobilization has lacked a strategic framework—a clear medium-term purpose toward which our efforts are aimed and against which they are judged. Policy makers need to think about our response to the virus in terms of two steps: a hard pause, followed by a soft start. The pause is absolutely necessary, but so is the careful and gradual return to normalcy….

It is not yet possible to move from the hard pause we have taken to the soft and gradual resumption of normalcy. But it is essential that such a resumption be the goal of that pause. We all need to do our part to let the health system make it through the hardest, most intense period of critical cases. But the aim of public policy should be to have this period last weeks, not months; to let people keep their place while we go through it; and to enable a gradual, soft, uneasy return to work, school, commerce, and culture.

Some of what policy makers have already done has helped advance this cause, and some of it has been confused about its purpose. A clearer, well-articulated strategic framework for policy could help decision makers tell the difference, assess their options, make hard choices, and lead the way.

The whole piece is to be commended.

Ross Douthat Exposes the Abortion Hypocrisy of the Left

by Quena Gonzalez

September 18, 2019

The inimitable New York Times columnist Ross Douthat recently wrote a column titled, “The Abortion Mysticism of Pete Buttigieg: How the party of science decided that personhood begins at birth.” Read the whole thing here. It’s a master-class in opinion writing.

In a single, cohesive essay, Douthat pulls together several disparate threads to demonstrate the Democratic Party’s abortion extremism, including Pete Buttigieg’s recent comments that perhaps “life begins with breath,” the recent firing of Planned Parenthood’s Leanna Wen over the politics of abortion, and last weekend’s revelation that Buttigieg’s hometown abortionist had stored over 2,200 dead unborn children in his home.

The only thing I might add is that Democrats do not actually draw the line on abortion when, as Buttigieg suggested, the baby draws his or her first breath. Witness Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the Democrat state legislators who in 2019 undid or blocked protections for abortion survivors in New York, Illinois, and North Carolina, and came harrowingly close to doing so in Virginia and New Mexico. Witness the House Democrats who may soon vote for the 100th time to block protections for abortion survivors. When it comes to abortion, no baby is safe from the Democrats unless he or she is wanted by his or her mother.

While the destructive force of the sexual revolution rolls on to enthusiastic cheering from the Left, its unfortunate casualties—both unborn and born children—are discarded.

A New Pro-Life Law in Missouri Was Partly Blocked. Here’s What You Can Do.

by Quena Gonzalez

August 29, 2019

On Tuesday, a federal judge blocked parts of Missouri’s “omnibus” pro-life law. Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do about it. First, what does this law say?

Missouri’s “Omnibus” Pro-Life Law, HB 126

This spring Missouri legislators introduced a slew of pro-life bills; these were largely rolled up into a single bill (hence the term “omnibus”), House Bill 126, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Parson on May 24th.

Here are the parts of the law that Planned Parenthood challenged:

  • Bans an abortionist from doing an abortion at the point when medical science indicates the unborn child is capable of feeling pain in the womb (20 weeks*), except in cases of a medical emergency for the mother, and requires that every effort be used (including the attendance of a second physician) to preserve the life of the baby (188.375)
  • Recognizing fetal heartbeat and other markers of fetal development (188.026), it bans an abortionist from doing an abortion after 8 weeks (188.056), 14 weeks (188.057), and 18 weeks (188.058)
  • Bans abortionists from doing an abortion if the mother is motivated by the sex or Down syndrome diagnosis of her baby (188.038)

(Each of these bans is “severable,” meaning the law was written so that if any of the bans at 8, 14, 18, and 20 weeks is struck down by a court, the remaining provisions stand. The clear legislative intent of the bill was to force the federal courts to consider each ban individually, in order to ban as many abortions as the courts will allow.)

Here’s what else the law did that Planned Parenthood didn’t challenge:

  • Expands parental consent to require other-parent notification for minors seeking abortions (with an emergency clause) (188.028)
  • Requires abortionists to first tell mothers that their unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks (188.027)
  • Requires that all informed-consent materials be made available to women referred for an out-of-state abortion (188.033)
  • Increases the amount of medical malpractice insurance that abortionists must carry (188.043-44)
  • Increases reporting requirements for abortionists to include the gestational age, method of abortion, results of test for fetal heartbeat, etc. for each abortion (188.052)
  • Extends the existing 50 percent tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers (135.630)
  • Bans all abortions (except in cases of certifiable medical emergency for the mother) if Roe is overturned, or the Constitution is amended to permit this provision to take effect, or if Congress passes a law which would permit this provision to take effect (188.017; see also bill Section B)

All of the unchallenged portions of the law, as well as the ban on sex-selective or Downs diagnosis-motivated abortions, went into effect Wednesday.

What Did the Court Do?

On Tuesday, a federal district court preliminarily enjoined the first two provisions of the law mentioned above, preventing any of the bans on abortion at 8, 14, 18, and 20 weeks from going into effect while the law is being litigated in court. A preliminary injunction is not a final ruling; it means the judge finds it likely, at this stage, that—among other factors—the enjoined provisions will cause “irreparable harm” to Planned Parenthood, and that under current Supreme Court precedent those provisions will probably not be allowed to stand in the lower courts.

What Did the Court NOT Say?

The preliminary injunction is not a final ruling, and the judge could change his mind and rule differently based on further evidence or argument.

The judge declined to block the ban on sex-selective abortion and abortion on the basis of a Down syndrome diagnosis, at least for now.

And he did not enjoin those portions of the law not challenged—notably, an expansion of parental notification, two important expansions of the informed-consent law (making sure abortion-minded mothers have as much information as possible), increasing reporting requirements and insurance requirements on abortionists, and extending an existing state tax credit for donations made to pregnancy resource centers.

Perhaps most notably of all, Missouri’s post-Roe abortion ban is now on the books, looking forward to the day when Roe v. Wade (which improperly injected an abortion “right” into the Constitution) is overturned.

What Can I Do?

Average Americans do not have as much of a direct role in the court case, but you can always pray for justice to prevail, and for the travesty of abortion in America to become unthinkable. Missourians can also click here to thank their elected representatives for protecting life and passing HB 126!

Virginia’s War on Women

by Quena Gonzalez

June 6, 2014

Pro-life activists are used to hearing the trope of the so-called “war on women,” twisting compassionate efforts to save mothers from trauma and babies from death as somehow not in women’s best interest. So there is a certain tragic irony when pro-choice officials like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe get caught actually lowering medical standards for women.

Three years ago pro-life members of the Virginia General Assembly passed a law requiring minimum safety standards for abortion facilities in the Commonwealth. The abortion industry fought the standards every step of the way, even after the grisly details of Kermit Gosnell’s house of horrors in Philadelphia put a national spot light on abortion practices, and even after Virginia Health Department inspections — mandated by the law — revealed dirty equipment, bloody exam tables, and other sub-standard conditions in abortion facilities across the Old Dominion.

The newly-elected Governor’s claim to champion “women’s issues” is belied by his instructions to the Board of Health to re-examine the new abortion facility standards. Gov. McAuliffe is exercising raw political power to water down protections for vulnerable women who find themselves in the tragic position of seeking an abortion.

Victoria Cobb of the Family Foundation of Virginia captured this irony in her notes from the Thursday meeting of the Virginia Board of Health:

The Virginia Board of Health today took no action as it learned that a review of abortion center health and safety standards has already been initiated by the Commissioner of Health at the request of Governor Terry McAuliffe. The Board met in Richmond and heard a brief review of the process that will take place over the next several months.

In my testimony during the Board’s public comment period, I urged the Department of Health to close down the Virginia Beach abortion center of the notorious abortionist Dr. Steven Brigham, the same plea I made at a press conference outside that facility on Tuesday.

You can read more about our press conference here in a story from yesterday’s Virginian Pilot.

And, you can read more about Steven Brigham and why we believe he should be prohibited from owning or operating abortion centers in Virginia here. You can read my complete press conference remarks here.

At today’s Board meeting, members learned that the Department of Health will conduct a review over the next several months of Virginia’s abortion center health and safety standards adopted just last year. The review will be completed by October 1, but the Board will not likely take any action on what the Department recommends until December. At that point, the Board could reject the Department’s recommendation, or begin the arduous 18-month process of redoing the regulations.

For over 20 years abortion centers in Virginia went unregulated. After legislation was passed in 2011 requiring the Board of Health to adopt health and safety standards, it took two years before the standards were finalized. Since the initial inspections of abortion centers began in 2012, over 300 violations have been found. Multiple abortion centers had bloody and unsterilized equipment. Multiple abortion centers had untrained staff. Multiple abortion centers misused drugs. The list goes on and on.

Incredibly, the same abortion industry that fought for two decades against health and safety standards, including opposing legislation in 2011 that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment, now claims to want “reasonable regulation,” but asserts that the current standards are too strict. The industry gave Terry McAuliffe $2 million of hush money during his campaign in hopes that he’d reverse the standards. Honestly, how strict can the regulations be if someone like Steven Brigham can still own or operate two abortion centers in Virginia?

Our hope is that the Commissioner of Health and the Board members do not allow themselves to be bullied by Terry McAuliffe and the abortion industry, and keep the current standards in place.

So, will the Virginia Board of Health go along with the Governor’s war on women? (Click here to read comments submitted by my FRC colleague, Arina Grossu.)

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