Crises serve to clarify. COVID-19 is forcing all of us to make difficult choices. We are having to separate the necessary from the superfluous and sifting the essentials from accompanying chaff. 

In health care, we have no choice but to be realistic about this process. Bracing for what we know is coming — a flood of very sick patients into a system with a finite number of hospital beds, and a growing dearth of protective equipment for doctors and nurses — we are canceling elective procedures and postponing medically necessary ones that can safely be postponed.

This all makes perfect sense to health care professionals and the larger public, but not, alas, to abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood and activists who want to keep the abortion train running full steam ahead during this dangerous pandemic.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released detailed guidelines to assist doctors and hospitals in determining what procedures should be canceled or postponed. Severe and immediate threat to life, limb or organ? Go ahead with the surgery, even in a hospital with COVID-19 patients. It’s the same for cancer patients and cardiac patients who need urgent inpatient treatment.

However, procedures that can be postponed should be postponed — even, for instance, if the patient is in pain from arthritis or renal colic. Of course, cosmetic surgeries and other purely elective procedures must be indefinitely postponed, since the supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers is limited, and hospital beds should be free for the COVID-19 surge.

As much as abortion providers and activists might deny it, abortion is by definition an elective procedure. Pregnancy is not a disease or an illness. As such, abortion is not a medically necessary “treatment.”

The Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of the abortion lobby, lists the reasons why women seek abortion. Although the reasons are many and varied, none are medical. Financial instability, fear of interrupting one’s education, being unmarried or being unwilling to give birth to a child and give the child up for adoption — all these are social, not medical reasons for seeking an abortion.

Yes, a handful of rare medical conditions associated with pregnancy can put a woman’s life in danger and must be treated immediately. These include ectopic pregnancy and preeclampsia. Delivering the baby, even prematurely, in the case of preeclampsia, or removing the affected fallopian tube in the case of ectopic pregnancy, are not elective surgeries. They are life-saving procedures that are not considered, much less called, abortion.

As far as fetal medical conditions go, terminating the life of an unborn child with a disability is also not medically necessary. If the child perhaps has Down syndrome or is suffering from a congenitally absent limb, she can be safely delivered with no danger to the mother. Choosing abortion because of a fetal disability is simply that, a choice, and is purely elective. 

Responding to both CMS guidance and common sense, the Ohio Department of Health banned all “nonessential and elective surgeries,” not only to preserve protective gear for those fighting Coronavirus but also to reduce the staff’s and patients’ unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. As a part of this, the state has ordered abortion facilities to stop performing elective abortions. The state of Texas has also barred “any type of abortion that is not medically necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.”

Planned Parenthood of Ohio and Texas both refuse to comply with these reasonable policies. They insist that all surgical abortions are medically necessary and essential. But abortion doesn’t fall into the same category of “essential” listed by CMS as treatments like cancer surgery, neurosurgery, transplants and limb-threatening vascular surgery do. Abortion is only essential in one sense: for the abortion industry, it’s essential to the bottom line. 

Massachusetts, on the other hand, is protecting Planned Parenthood’s bottom line at great risk and cost to the public. There, all elective surgeries – excision of cancerous skin lesions, hip replacements, kidney stone removals -- will be put on hold, but not elective abortions. The agony of a degenerated hip or the real possibility of a metastasizing skin cancer must be endured by all in this pandemic. In Massachusetts, however, abortion must go on.

The global catastrophe of COVID-19, with its daily tragedies and mass enforced isolation, the terrible economic consequences that are being felt even now by the most vulnerable and that loom before the rest of us, is laying essential truths bare. One truth is that we depend on each other much more than we thought we did. Another truth is that abortion businesses will sacrifice even public safety and the critical needs of a strained health system to maintain their bottom line.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie is a policy adviser for The Catholic Association.