It is now about two weeks since our Commonwealth has been operating solely on “essential services”. This unprecedented and resolute reduction in economic and personal activity for the purpose of “social distancing” was of course implemented to stop the spread of a novel strain of Corona virus.
To effect this change, a nine page COVID-19 list of essential services was promulgated by Governor Baker. Each service on the list is considered to be indispensable to the lives and functions of citizens during this pandemic. It is a comprehensive list which provides all observers of the human condition with an interesting perspective not only on the government’s priorities but on its notion of man.
Interestingly, our governor does indicate (on his order dated March 23rd) that “workers at places of worship” do provide an essential service. They can be found under the rather dull and disorderly title of “Other Community-Based Essential Functions and Government Operations”. Other essential roles deemed similar enough to be in this category with church workers are: election personnel, weather forecasters, hotel workers and laundry services. This would actually be humorous except that “workers at places of worship” is the last item noted in this jostling jumble of jobs. It is at the very bottom of the list.
Now something is seriously amiss in the deliberations of any government-of-the-people when it is unable to think of even one essential service to place under a heading titled “Religion”, especially when, as is the case with our state leadership, it is quite able to come up with three services under the heading “Hazardous Materials”. Yet truly, what should we expect from a state government that excludes the Church from the role of adoption provider for deeming male and female parents as “essential” to the raising of children.
Now state and church both exist for man. The former is natural to man; the latter supernatural. Yet both are providential in the will of God. Each has its source in God. As such, both are meant to agree on the essentials for man. In times when reason and faith are both held high and in accord with each other, state and church will agree on what is essential to man. Sadly, this is not the case in our times.
In fact, any statist government that sees religion as a solely private affair meriting no say in civil matters has already failed to grasp the essential nature of man. Mundane man (male and female), man who has one ear planted on the earth and the other ear blocked to heaven, is not complete man and therefore will know and understand only some of his own needs. He will follow mostly his inferior needs thinking these to be essential.
This is the situation we find ourselves in now, since for example while religion has become barely essential to the public welfare, abortion has become one of its bare essentials. Andrew Beckworth, President of Massachusetts Family Institute. recently informed its supporters in an email of how the Department of Public Health in Massachusetts exempted abortion from its list of non-essential elective surgeries during this pandemic, therefore (essentially) declaring abortion to be an essential service. Considering former moral decisions and acts of our governorship and the department of public health, Massachusetts citizens should not find this surprising. However, if we are to be thoughtful citizens and grasp what is going on we must put on our thinking caps and consider the very meaning of the term “essential”.
“Essential” comes from the Latin essentia, meaning “in the highest degree”. Essentia (English “essence”) has deeper roots in the Latin term esse meaning “to be”. Thus, when we speak of essentials we are speaking of those things that we need because they fulfill our human nature, that is, those things or activities or powers that make us what we are.
This is why it is all the more disturbing that states such as Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington, which have stopped all elective surgeries to conserve their in-state medical protective equipment, have at the same time exempted abortion from their stop order. Yet our purpose here is not to examine the political debate over these decisions but rather to examine the philosophical undertones and fallout over, for instance, the National Abortion Rights Action League’s (NARAL) colluding position that surgical abortions, including all elective surgical abortions, ought to always be considered “essential”.
NARAL, Planned Parenthood and various other feminist organizations have consistently taken the public position that abortion is an essential service to women’s health. However, they cannot call abortion “essential” without exposing their foul presumption that abortion goes to the very essence of womanhood! When we say that food, shelter, clothing, freedom of movement, social association, and religious worship are all essential to man, we are saying that that these things are necessary for man to be man. By comparison when the feminist and her feminist allies say that abortion is essential to women, they are saying that abortion is necessary for women to be women! They are saying that women need abortion “to be” what they are, i.e. to fulfill their gender.
Back in October 2015, in a piece for The Nation, feminist writer Katha Pollitt penned an essay entitled “Gender Equality Is Not Possible without Abortion”. Now we have neither the space nor the time to debate that obfuscating term “gender equality”. Suffice it to say that to make the claim that abortion is essential for female equality is to make the claim that abortion is essential for the female to be who she is meant to be; to achieve her essence.
Some feminists might shiver at the claim that women cannot be women without the right to destroy their own child in the womb (however most are stone cold believers of this)! This is the principle they stand for and act upon: abortion as equalizer, as fundamental right, as essential need; abortion atrociously authenticating the very essence of womanhood.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services