Coronavirus and abortion: Why can’t we be more like Europe?

European countries used to be a beacon for progressives eager to expand social programs and promote “democratic socialism,” but the comparison has fallen out of favor during the pandemic because it’s no longer politically useful.  Europe has taken a more reasonable approach to vaccines, including analyzing their real risks, and abortion than American progressives will ever accept.

Once upon a time, progressives frequently questioned why the United States couldn’t simply be more like Europe.  From the generosity of the social safety net to the reliance on trains for transportation with the number of vacation days in between, it seemed like everything was much better on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.  At a 2016 Democrat Presidential Debate, Vermont Senator and progressive hero, Bernie Sanders, put it this way.  “I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn what they have accomplished for their working people.”  These remarks followed up an opinion piece Senator Sanders wrote for The Huffington Post in 2013.  “In Denmark, social policy in areas like health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a ‘solidarity system’ that makes sure that almost no one falls into economic despair. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return enjoy a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe…Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish health care system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in our country. In Denmark, every citizen can choose a doctor in their area. Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age.”  A year earlier, The Atlantic asked “Should the United States be more like Europe?”  According to the progressive publication, “many European countries outperform the United States on a wide range of measures…Any perception that these European countries lag behind the United States is hard to support. Far from it, they are doing better in many ways. The United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries, in particular, outperform America on almost all of the metrics shown here.”  They concluded, “Much of the European advantage comes from a greater emphasis on equality of capability, in the sense proposed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen. For example, they place more weight on equal access to healthcare and education. Europeans don’t have the kneejerk antipathy to democratic socialism that Americans do, despite having had in their backyards frightening regimes that gave socialism a terrible name.”

Sometime during the course of the coronavirus pandemic, however, something changed.  At first, the aggressive interventions taken in Italy and other European countries, complete with drones to monitor the populace and the equivalent of a hall pass to leave the house, enamored progressives.  If only America could lock down so thoroughly, we could stop the virus in its tracks, they said.  Who needs this pesky First Amendment and the right to peaceably assemble anyway?  It was only a few months later when it became obvious that Europe was also eager to reopen, beginning with schools.  While countries all across the continent began reopened schools in the summer of 2020, much of America remained mired in remote learning throughout 2021.  Britain opened primary schools on June 1.  Germany opened throughout August.  France had all schools open on September 1.  Even hard hit Italy was open by September 14, while we were still subject to endless demands from progressive leaning teacher’s unions who suddenly had no desire to be like Europe.  The divergence over schools, however, was nothing compared to how radically different the approaches to vaccine mandates and studies of potential side effects.  Here, it seems like we might be inhabiting two different universes.  In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccines and boosters for everyone in the country over the age of 6 months, nor do they distinguish between the different vaccines available from Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax with Johnson and Johnson used only in certain situations “due to safety concerns.”  By comparison, Germany only recommends vaccines for individuals five and older, and ongoing boosters for those between the age of 60 to 69 or at an increased risk of the disease.  They do not recommend Moderna at all to people under thirty for safety reasons.  Britain follows a similar model, with recommendations for initial vaccination for those five and older, and a single only for sixteen and older unless you have a pre-existing condition.  Ongoing boosters are recommended only for individuals fifteen or older, those at higher risk or who are pregnant, and front line healthcare and social workers.  France is for five and older as well with a similar approach to boosters. This is undoubtedly because a German study found that not a single child aged five to seventeen died from COVID-19 throughout the entire course of the pandemic.  Not one.  This should not be surprising when it has always been known that the virus hits older people harder for whatever reason.  In the United States, those aged 85 and older account for 26% of all deaths.  Those aged 75 and over account for 55% of all deaths.  The bar chart provided by the CDC is so dramatic that you cannot even visualize deaths for those under 27 years old because the numbers are so small relative to the older cohort.

Despite the obvious disparity, the Biden Administration continued to support vaccine mandates on anyone and everyone the federal government has the power to compel.  The military mandate for all service members, which has recently been in the news, is a case in point.  The incoming Republican House of Representatives plan to ensure the next funding bill includes a provision to remove the mandate and re-enlist the 8,000 active duty troops who were discharged over it.  Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other high ranking officials, however, have all come out against the proposed repeal.  “Secretary Austin’s been very clear that he opposes the repeal of that vaccine mandate, and the president actually concurs with the secretary that we need to continue to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID 19,” explained White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, John Kirby.  This when even some Democrats are onboard with the repeal.  “I’ve been very clear with the president …This is the first sign of having divided government, you got some compromise here,” (likely) Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy told Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures. “And we’ve got something that Republicans have been working very hard, and a number of Democrats, too, trying to find success. But one-party rule would never allow that to go forward. And now we’re going to have success.”  There is no word on whether President Biden would actually veto a bill that repeals the mandate, but why is this even a question to begin with?  Why are we forcing people to take vaccines they do not want or need, and spending billions of dollars to protect people that do not need to be protected?  It was one thing to pursue these strategies back when the public health establishment, the media, and Democrat politicians were peddling the misinformation that vaccines stop the spread of the virus and a winter of death and disease was imminent as a result of “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” but now?

Sadly, the United States has also taken the opposite approach when it comes to accurately analyzing the purported safety of the vaccines.  Despite reports of significant adverse reactions, including potentially lethal myocarditis in a (very) small number of recipients, we’ve taken a “see no evil, hear no evil approach” to truly evaluating the risks and benefits.  A new study, also out of Germany, concludes that there is, in fact, a non-zero chance of a healthy person dying from myocarditis shortly after vaccination.  Interestingly, this study actually performed autopsies on everyone that died at the University of Heidelberg shortly after receiving a vaccine.  Rather than guess at data they could not reasonably capture, the research team did the hard work of examining each corpse.  “Cardiac autopsy findings consistent with (epi-)myocarditis were found in five cases of the remaining 25 bodies found unexpectedly dead at home within 20 days following SARS-CoV-2 vaccination…Three of the deceased persons were women, two men. Median age at death was 58 years (range 46–75 years). Four persons died after the first vaccine jab, the remaining case after the second dose. All persons died within the first week following vaccination (mean 2.5 days, median 2 days).  Further, “All cases lacked significant coronary heart disease, acute or chronic manifestations of ischaemic heart disease, manifestations of cardiomyopathy or other signs of a pre-existing, clinically relevant heart disease,” meaning it is overwhelmingly likely these people were killed by the vaccine.  The authors conclude, “In general, a causal link between myocarditis and anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccination is supported by several considerations: (A) a close temporal relation to vaccination; all cases were found dead within one week after vaccination, (B) absence of any other significant pre-existing heart disease, especially ischaemic heart disease or cardiomyopathy, (C) negative testing for potential myocarditis-causing infectious agents, (D) presence of a peculiar CD4 predominant T-cell infiltrate, suggesting an immune mediated mechanism.”  The COVID-contrarian professor and physician at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Marty Makary noted, “This is a German study from a reputable group. It’s very hard to conduct this research in the U.S.”  Why is that?  I’ve long argued that we need to follow the money, but I’m not sure that explains it entirely.  Thus, the self-proclaimed party of science is diverging with our European friends over matters of science.

We are starting to see the same thing in matters of morality.  Would you believe that France of all places, known around the world for the language of love and romance, has far more restrictive abortion laws than progressives would ever accept in the United States?  Abortions cannot be performed in France after 14 weeks, the same as Spain.  Abortion in France also requires two medical consultations.  Other Europeans are a little less restrictive, but no where near the abortion on demand with no restrictions pathology that plagues the United States.  Sweden bans the procedure after 18 weeks.  England, Wales, and Scotland, and the Netherlands after 24.  Abortion is technically illegal in Germany, but non-punishable if done within 12 weeks and with mandatory counselling.  Denmark is also at 12 weeks.  Are these countries all part of the secret plot to enslave all women on the planet as handmaids or are they, as Senator Sanders might say, merely enjoying “a quality of life that many Americans would find hard to believe”?  Meanwhile, in America we waste our time arguing whether a heartbeat is actually  a heartbeat, and dodging what actual policies we would enact.  “This is not going away anytime soon,” explained Jen Klein of the Biden administration’s Gender Policy Council. “Tens of millions of Americans are living under bans of various sorts, many of them quite extreme, and even in states where abortion is legal, we’re all seeing the impact on providers and on systems being loaded by people who are coming across state lines.”  Rather than attempt to build a consensus around what restrictions are reasonable as they have done in Europe, the Biden Administration is busying itself by coming up with creative ways to thwart states from setting their own policies.  As PBS described it, “Administration officials are meeting Tuesday and Wednesday with state lawmakers ahead of their 2023 sessions, including in states with more extreme bans on the table, and will discuss safeguarding rights and helping women access care as top issues. The meetings follow sit-downs with roughly nine governors, attorneys general and Democratic state legislators from more than 30 states.  The administration, meanwhile, is implementing Biden’s executive orders signed in July and August that directed federal agencies to push back on abortion restrictions and protect women traveling out of their state to seek one, though some women’s rights advocates say it doesn’t go far enough.”  PBS quotes former Obama-era Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, as saying the administration can get more creative in using federal power.  They point out that during her tenure “the agency did some policy maneuvering to expand rights for same-sex couples, including a requirement that any hospitals receiving federal funds allow their patients to select a same-sex partner as a visitor, years before gay marriage was legalized.”  “It’s amazing how broad a lot of the agency’s authorities are and how much creative thinking can go on,” former Secretary Sebelius said.  Does anyone truly believe more creative federal power is what we need at this juncture?

To be sure, I’ve often found myself arguing that the United States shouldn’t aspire to be like anyone but ourselves.  At the same time, I wasn’t of the political persuasion that frequently looked to Europe whenever it was convenient and suddenly stopped doing so the moment Europeans diverged from my political goals.  There is also value in comparing our approach to government, policy, and social matters to countries that are similar to our own.  The states need not be the only laboratory for democracy.  An enterprising reporter might consider asking Senator Sanders and others if we should continue to follow Europe’s lead in these and other matters.  It will never happen in an era when journalists are propagandists, but one can hope as progressives seem to have a lot of explaining to do.

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