When a deadly virus tears through the world’s population and single-handedly ransacks the U.S. economy, you can always count on certain people to try to use it as a tool to push a personal (and political) agenda.
Such is the nature of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves who gleefully announced his plan last month to impose his anti-abortion views upon Mississippi women.
While the COVID-19 virus does its thing, killing senior citizens and young people alike, Reeves declared his government would do “everything in our power … to make Mississippi the safest place in America for unborn children,” because that’s where priorities apparently belong in a world where people are ravaged by a virus.
Reeves is taking a shot (no pun intended) at this with the help of the Mississippi Department of Health, which issued a March 19 alert declaring that “physician (sic), hospitals and medical centers must defer elective surgical and diagnostic procedures until COVID-19 spread has been diminished and the supply of protective medical equipment is restored,” and that “physicians and providers should reschedule non-urgent medical appointments for a later date.”
Reeves said he’ll use this alert to label abortion an unnecessary procedure and outlaw it under the guise that hospitals allegedly need every vaginal speculum on-hand to battle a hazardous, species-hopping contagion.
“It is without question that the lone clinic in Jackson does, in fact, operate, doing procedures that are elective and not required, and therefore they should be following the guidelines as offered by the state department of health,” Reeves said, promising he would “take action” if the state’s sole abortion clinic dared to provide a constitutionally-protected procedure to desperate women.
Abortion rights advocates and women’s health organizations, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, call abortion “time sensitive,” however, and an “essential component of comprehensive health care.”
The governor’s decision looks even more premeditated considering his other responses to the virus. While taking abortion very seriously in the wake of COVID-19, he took his time with ordering statewide closings in an effort to isolate potential victims from the virus and slow its spread. In fact, Reeves is one of several governors who issued no statewide closings by the end of March, even as neighboring Alabama shut down nonessential businesses, including entertainment venues, gyms and barbershops, and Virginia’s governor issued a stay-at-home order in effect until June 10.
Tupelo city mayor Jason Shelton even blasted Reeves for his inaction on virus response.
“I mistakenly waited for the state to act,” Shelton told the Daily Journal. “I understand that the state is not going to issue any orders to assist the city, so local governments, cities and counties are going to be on their own.”
The governor’s inaction pressed local mayors to step up to the plate and ratify their own local policies to curtail infection. Reeves complicated their effort, however, by instituting a statewide policy only after local leaders began setting their own. His belated move threw even more chaos into the mix when he restricted the business activity of businesses not considered “essential” and then labeled practically everything “essential,” even places that don’t increase revenue or pay taxes, such as churches or religious services. It helped no one that his list of directives appeared to override mayoral decisions.
Reporters from different news organizations actually butt heads over what Reeves’ order meant, which forced the governor to release a clarification assuring that state orders did not overrule local mandates. Critics say Reeves’ soft-serve mandate delays any possibility for a uniform statewide reaction to the pandemic.