The Corner

Politics & Policy

Coronavirus and the Fetus

The New York Times had an interesting article the other day, with the title “Shielding the Fetus From the Coronavirus.” There’s some moderately good news in the piece, worth dwelling on for a minute:

Newborns and babies have so far seemed to be largely unaffected by the coronavirus, but three new studies suggest that the virus may reach the fetus in utero.

Even in these studies, the newborns seemed only mildly affected, if at all — which is reassuring, experts said. And the studies are small and inconclusive on whether the virus does truly breach the placenta.

The article goes on to note that the studies show some evidence of transmission, meaning there’s some reason to believe that a fetus — an unborn human being, as some of us call it — could be affected by the disease if his or her mother contracted COVID-19. But it doesn’t seem to pose an enormous risk. That’s one small blessing, as is the fact that, by and large, infants and children seem to have avoided contracting the disease or suffering severe symptoms.

Once we’ve gleaned that important information from the article, a question comes to mind: What exactly is this thing that we are we hoping to shield from the virus? In a country where elective abortion is legal throughout pregnancy, why such concern for the fetus? Isn’t this entity, as some advocates suggest, “not a human being” and instead “part of the mother”? Isn’t the fetus merely a “clump of cells,” easily removed and discarded as if it were a tumor, infringing on the mother’s body like a parasite? These are the sorts of terms we hear about fetuses when talking about abortion.

When talking about the effects of the coronavirus, though, articles position the fetus on equal footing with newborns. These articles, after all, likely are written primarily for parents concerned about the fate of their unborn child — and rightly so. Is it too much to ask that we be consistent?

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