Thursday, July 15, 2021

"my body, my choice"

I've seen conservatives throw "my body, my choice" in the faces of liberals/leftists who are in favor of mandatory vaccination. "So for abortion, it's 'my body, my choice,' but for vaccination, things should be mandatory? Hypocrite!" I'm not sure what to make of this argument, which sounds appealing on the surface until you start digging into the nuances.

Take the question of age. How old do you have to be before you can say, "my body, my choice"? Conservatives don't like the idea of a pre-teen or teen choosing to undergo reassignment surgery, so this is a case where conservatives strongly feel "my body, my choice" doesn't apply. The parents, conservatives argue, should have a say in the child's future, otherwise they're abdicating their role as parents. My point here isn't to say that conservatives are being hypocritical (maybe they are; maybe they aren't); it's more to say that the position described in my first paragraph is un-nuanced. There's more to the question than simply "I can do what I want with my own body."

The other, arguably more obvious problem is that there's a feeling that not getting vaccinated (full disclosure: I haven't been jabbed yet) makes you a danger to others. This is a major disanalogy with the abortion argument, in which pregnancy most directly affects only the mother (and, depending on your point of view, her child). Other people might be "affected" by a pregnancy, but affected isn't infected. And once you're infected, you become a danger to others. This isn't true of a pregnancy. I can't become pregnant just because you're pregnant.

I don't know the answer to the question of whether "my body, my choice" applies across the board. My inner libertarian tells me that the government doesn't have the right to dictate how I should live my life. But if I have any sense of concern for others, shouldn't I get vaccinated to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and isn't that the spirit motivating the push to make vaccination mandatory?

The issue isn't simple. People who sloganeer aren't helping when they oversimplify the real complexity of the problem, and while I intuitively sympathize with conservatives who don't want their rights to be violated by a vaccine mandate, I also understand the need to do what we can to slow the virus's spread. 

And what exactly is the conservative argument? What is the subtext of the conservative position? In mocking "my body, my choice," are conservatives saying the maxim is bogus, and that to be consistent, we should be anti-abortion and pro-vaccination-mandate (no choice, no choice)? Or is it the other way around: to be consistent, we should be pro-abortion and anti-vaccination-mandate (yes choice, yes choice)? Either way, the argument doesn't lead to a consistently conservative conclusion. What conservatives want is to be anti-abortion (the woman doesn't have a say when it comes to carrying a baby to term; she must carry it to term) and anti-vaccination (no mandate: I choose how to live my life), but they're not expressing that thought very well when they mock "my body, my choice." I think conservatives need to think through their position on this before they set about mocking liberals.

You could, in fact, turn the parody around and write an Onion article saying, "Conservative wants the right to do what he wants with his body while wearing a 'Stop Abortion' tee shirt." Now I realize the issue of abortion is far more complex than this blog post can handle, but you get my point: there's a lack of nuance, and when discussion and debate are reduced to the level of tweets and sound bites, they aren't debates or discussions at all.


John Mac said...

Yeah, the issue is too complex to be summarized in a meme. I'm firmly in the camp of not wanting the government to tell me what I have to do, even if it is allegedly for the "greater good."

When it comes to this COVID fiasco, I ain't drinking the Kool-aid. The kill rate is lower than some strains of the flu, and even then, it's the old and lame who are at risk. If you want a vaccination (which carries its own kind of risk) get one. Then it shouldn't matter to you what I choose to do. I'm still trying to figure out what the end game of this pandemic is supposed to be. It sure doesn't seem to be about the "science".

Anyway, I'd resist a mandate to get vaccinated. But if vaccination was my ticket to freedom of movement, I'd likely choose to go along to get along.

Kevin Kim said...

I admit that one reason why I'm hesitant to get vaccinated is that there doesn't seem to be any benefit to getting the vaccine. In France, it's full steam ahead with the fascistic "vaccine passport" idea, but at least there's now a reason to get vaccinated: without a vaccine, you can't go anywhere or do anything. Here in Korea, getting vaccinated affords you no special privileges. I guess that's good insofar as there's no "unvaccinated underclass," but I thought the point of the vaccine was to be mask-free and to live a normal life. So... what's the motivation to get jabbed?