My Point of View: Being pro-science and pro-truth is pro-life

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2021

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My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

What does it mean to be pro-life?

I agree with Mary Hinnenkamp’s recent letter that it’s more important to pay attention to what people do than what they say. Republican leaders say they are “pro-life,” but they don’t back it up.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

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Over the past weekend, Minnesota exceeded 7,500 deaths from COVID. Thirty-two of these deaths have been among Freeborn County residents. Nevertheless, our state is in the lowest third by COVID death rate, meaning that we have done a better job than most states of protecting our population.

Republicans like state Rep. Peggy Bennett continuously pushed Gov. Tim Walz to prematurely open the state for business, no matter that it would help COVID sicken and kill more citizens. Thankfully Walz stood firm, and Minnesota fared much better than our neighboring states led by Republican governors who set laxer requirements.

At South Dakota’s reported death rate, Minnesota now would have over 5,000 more COVID deaths. At North Dakota’s rate, our state would have 3,500 extra deaths. At Iowa’s rate, we would have lost over 3,000 more people.

If Minnesota had South Dakota’s COVID death rate, it would be like our state additionally losing more than the combined populations of Clarks Grove, Alden, Glenville, Hollandale, Emmons, Geneva, Hartland, Freeborn, Hayward, Twin Lakes, Conger, Manchester and Myrtle.

As much as Rep. Bennett claims to be “pro-life,” these numbers tell a different story. When business interests are in conflict with health interests, Bennett’s stance is “choose business.” Bennett prioritized business survival over people’s lives. The entire Republican Party did.

Thankfully, Tim Walz chose people’s survival first. That’s the right choice, because business can be brought back, while people can’t.

Putting business activity over saving lives is closely related to taking anti-science stances.

In his “My Point of View” column on May 26, Brad Kramer badly distorted the findings of an academic study (“Viral Visualizations: How Coronavirus Skeptics Use Orthodox Data Practices to Promote Unorthodox Science Online”) presented by MIT researchers at the Computer Human Interactions conference this year.

Kramer fabricated the assertion that conservatives understand scientific data better than their liberal counterparts. The authors do not state this. What the authors do assert is that public health experts shouldn’t assume anti-mask, anti-lockdown activists are ignorant. Many are sophisticated at developing alternative conclusions that are opposite of those reached by public health experts, and they are adept at using social media to spread them. In doing so, these activist networks have undermined messaging from government agencies. For example, people have used government-produced data sets to conclude, wrongly and dangerously, that COVID is no more serious than the seasonal flu.

Kramer’s treatment of the study practically made one of the authors’ points–that “skeptics” (particularly conservative ones) are leveraging trust in public data and academic sources (MIT in this case) and then drawing conclusions to suit their own anti-science, anti-government political agenda. The authors associate the “simultaneous appropriation of scientific rhetoric and rejection of scientific authority” they examined surrounding COVID with similar strategies employed to refute evidence of evolution and climate change.

In a letter to the editor on May 29, Susan Joyce made similar points about Kramer’s faulty assessment. I would add that Kramer should either retract or thoroughly revise his misrepresentation of these researchers’ painstaking analysis.

The current Republican Party values profits and the titans of Wall Street most of all, which is in direct conflict with actual pro-life positions. In fact, Republicans like U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn are quick to label legislation that prioritizes life and health over business profits as “socialist.”

As we know from the Sackler dynasty, the family did not let catastrophic evidence of addiction and deaths get in the way of pursuing ever-increasing sales of Oxycontin. They cared most about the money from opioids pouring into their bank accounts. A small fraction of their profits paid for legal and public relations representation that helped the Sacklers keep their lucrative death machine going for two decades with few restrictions that would have treated pain while mitigating Oxycontin’s powerful risk for addiction.

Billions in profits for this family meant addiction and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans. Why do we tolerate Republicans who want to give wealthy people more freedom to unleash destruction like this on Americans and then blame individuals for their weakness to stand up to it?

Regulations from government agencies operating in the public interest based on scientific findings protect people from this kind of harm.

Being pro-science and pro-truth is pro-life. Acting in the public interest instead of exulting profit-oriented decision-making is pro-life.

In practice, today’s Republican Party is anti-abortion, but it’s not pro-life.

“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.” — Anne Frank (June 12, 1929-February or March, 1945)

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.