The Wrinkle: Abortion Rights, Vaccine Passports, and Bodily Autonomy
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade marks an enormous defeat for women’s rights in the United States. We must not underestimate its importance, and how difficult it will be to overcome. There is a slew of things to consider about how this defeat occurred, and about how supporters of women’s rights and abortion rights can best organize to win a decisive and irreversible victory for a right that so many of us, mistakenly, thought had already been secured.
I’ll go over a number of those considerations in another essay. But here I want quickly to break out and discuss one wrinkle that has developed during the past two years—one that is of serious consequence for the abortion-rights argument because it directly touches on its essential element, and one that has enmired many leftists and abortion-rights supporters in confusion and contradiction that have weakened their abortion-rights position in ways they do not want to acknowledge.
That wrinkle is the dominant leftist attitude toward the mandatory covid vaccination policies, an attitude that is based, I think, on a strange and increasingly common epistemological stance—an inability, or stubborn refusal, to think things through honestly and consistently, considering all the arguments without pre-ordained conclusion.
Failing to have a consistent position based on bodily autonomy in regard to the forced intrusions of vaccine mandates/passports and abortion criminalization is a mistake of grave consequence, politically and epistemologically. Those who don’t recognize that mistake are undermining their political position in support of abortion rights, fooling themselves, and confusing and harming the movement.
And here’s the proof:
So: Should unvaccinated women who want an abortion be allowed into Canada, or not?
How about New York? Or California?
How about that 10-year-old Ohio rape victim who has to travel to another state or country for an abortion? Should she be allowed to enter that polity, on even board a train, plane, or bus to get there, if she is not vaccinated?
And I mean fully vaccinated. Canada is very strict on that. (Unless you’re Ukrainian. Really.)
A very real, inescapable question (and it is one question). An abortion rights supporter must answer it, unequivocally.
My answer to the question is clear: Yes, unvaccinated women should be allowed into Canada, or anyplace else they need to go, travelling by any means available, to get an abortion.
That answer is consistent with my long-standing analysis of the scientific and ethico-political issues regarding Covid vaccination mandates/passports and bodily autonomy, and poses no problem for me. As far as I’m concerned—and I think it’s imperative for everyone in the abortion-rights movement to say—Justin Trudeau preventing women from entering his polity to get an abortion is no better than some Republican governor preventing women from leaving his.
But have not vaccine mandate and passport supporters created a slight problem for themselves? Did they not, for more than two years, call unvaccinated women and men “plague carriers,” dangers to society, mass murderers who threaten the lives of millions—who can, and maybe should, not only be forbidden from entering countries, but also doctors’ offices and hospitals? Did they not, and do they not still, insist that all those polities and agencies have the right to exclude them? (Present tense: These policies are still in force, and will be permanent if not opposed.)
Those who support and those who can be persuaded to support abortion rights, and who were and are restricted by the mandates and passports—like me, who cannot visit my son in Canada, and the myriad of people who have been fired from their jobs and expelled from school and social life—will evaluate our political (and epistemological) trust in people depending on how they answer, and explain their answer to, the above question. ‘Cause here’s the thing: Whatever supposed “scientific” or “public health” justification one claimed for excluding the unvaccinated from travelling, working, going to school, or even being treated by doctors and hospitals—Bodily autonomy be damned!—did not change the moment Roe v. Wade was overturned. You cannot claim that there is no good reason to prevent unvaccinated women from entering Canada today without recognizing that there never was.
No, the “public health emergency” rationale does not work. A disease that has a hospitalization rate of less than 1% and an infection fatality rate of ~0.27% for the vast majority of the population—or as Mr. Vaccine himself puts it, has a “fairly low fatality rate” and is “a disease mainly of the elderly, kind of like flu“—does not constitute an apocalyptic public health threat Besides, however dangerous the disease, vaccines that do not prevent infection or transmission—and scientists, doctors, and we anti-mandate leftists told you all of this early on—do not justify a radical regime of mandates and passports that annuls the fundamental rights of bodily autonomy and informed consent.
As I’ve said before, we can imagine some Children of Men apocalyptic emergency in which we might consider restricting such rights, including abortion rights, and proclaiming, “My Body, Society’s Choice,” but a 0.27% decrease in fertility would not qualify. And even in such a circumstance, those who were truly concerned about women’s rights and bodily integrity would give solicitous attention, not dismissive insult, to those who expressed concern about how “public emergency” might just be the favorite excuse of a failing (in this case, capitalist and imperialist) state to train citizens into obedient compliance with programs of profit-maximization and the elimination of rights.
The truth is that vaccine-passport-supporting leftists, who now must claim—because it is indispensable to the abortion-rights argument—to cherish bodily autonomy, spent the last two years completely dismissing it
Yes, that is exactly what they did, and it is just plain dishonest to deny it. They dismissed bodily autonomy so thoroughly that they relentlessly insulted those who invoked it as selfish libertarian right-wing Trumpers. In doing so, they undermined (Yes, that is exactly what they did.) the strongest, simplest, and easiest-to-understand argument for abortion rights: “My Body, My Choice”—as those of us who were arrogantly and insultingly dismissed warned they would.
Vaccine-mandate/passport supporters give vaccines the same absolute priority and authority over our bodies, our personal and social rights, and the kind of society we want to live in that those who want to criminalize abortion give the fertilized egg/blastula/embryo/fetus, using the same (if not worse) kind of magical thinking.
The syllogisms go something like this:
X is an apocalyptically deadly disease; the vaccine is the harmless magic bullet solution; therefore, we should force everybody to take the vaccine.
The fertilized egg/blastula/embryo/fetus is a living human being; killing a fertilized egg/blastula/embryo/fetus is murder; therefore, we must force women to carry every pregnancy to term.
In both, cases, the body of the person/woman is the concrete thing that interrupts the syllogism. Which is why bodily autonomy must be deprecated—or better, disappeared—for the syllogism to work.
Leftist vaccine mandate supporters have been, like all of us, imbued for decades with the Pharma-sponsored ideology of vaccine exceptionalism, which disappears bodily autonomy. It’s an ideology that has trained us, upon hearing the magic word “vaccine,” to immediately and blithely assume there need not be, and it’s stupid to think there should be, any thought about possible serious harms to the person’s body or to public health. Pharma’s goal with that ideology is for every virus to be considered an apocalyptic danger to which a vaccine is the harmless-magic-bullet solution. What bodily autonomy?
If people don’t understand how real and deep and ubiquitous and automatically triggered that ideology is, and how determinative it was over their attitudes during the last two years, that’s a sign of how successfully Pharma and its captured government and media agencies have promoted it.
Will they continue to react as trained, or will they recognize and take a step back from that ideology, and realize that a vaccine has no more essential, automatic authority to cancel fundamental rights than does a fetus?
At this point, given the known and admitted facts about the significant lack of safety and efficacy of the harmless magic bullets, those who don’t acknowledge the truth of what they did by entirely dismissing bodily autonomy should not expect to be easily trusted. I mean, really, in the midst of a state-of-emergency crisis in abortion rights and the bodily autonomy of women, with even this guy now admitting what some of us said a long time ago—that there’s no point in “checking” and enforcing vaccination status with a vaccine that doesn’t prevent infection—wtaf are leftists and abortion-rights activists doing stubbornly clinging to a position that weakens their movement? What is the point?
Vaccine-passport-supporting leftists might also notice that they have neutered an important weapon: their argument about the abortion-rights opponents’ hypocrisy. Leftists who say the government can and must annul bodily autonomy by ordering the injection of complex novel pharmaceuticals into one’s body will be reasonably accused of their own hypocrisy when attacking right-wing politicians who want the government to restrict a woman’s bodily freedom when it comes to killing a fetus.
And leftists who want to highlight the hypocrisy of abortion-rights opponents who are only concerned with preserving “life” during pregnancy, while being indifferent to its fate thereafter, might want to think again about requiring people to take experimental gene therapies never before mass-administered to human beings, while not demanding compensation for harmful effects of the drugs they were forced to take. Concern for “life” begins at the moment of conception and ends at the moment of birth; concern for “public health” begins and ends at the moment of injection.
The other guy’s hypocrisy does not absolve yours. When abortion-rights opponents defend their hypocrisy by pointing out the similar hypocrisy of vaccine-mandate-supporting abortion rights proponents, the strongest response is not a childish, never-ending “No, yours is worse!” tit-for-tat. It’s to end the contradiction, to say: “You’re right. I recognize the contradiction and now embrace a consistent position on bodily autonomy. Covid vaccine mandates and passports were and are a bad idea. Yours is the hypocrisy that remains.” And isn’t that a lot stronger than the tit-for-tat? But you have to be willing to recognize when you’ve made a consequential mistake.
I won’t reject working in solidarity for abortion rights with anybody, no matter their answer to the question above, and it’s not I or my mandate-rejecting confreres who would attempt to exclude anyone from abortion-rights movements and spaces because of their vaccination or attitude-toward-vaccination status—as the state is asserting the authority to do. But there are many of us on the left who will not, and have no reason to, refrain from remarking, and asking explanation for, the sudden changes and exceptions on this issue that will be coming from so many people who were/are so content to discriminate against us and ignore and/or ridicule our warnings about precisely this political predicament we’ve arrived at. And you can be sure there are a lot of people in the anti-abortion rights camp who are going to remark and call people to account for their contradictions.
It is amazing to me that leftists so often think they can ignore arguments they find uncomfortable, as if their enemies—or even sympathetic people who are affected, and whom they can and should persuade—will let them.
If there was a “public health emergency,” solved by harmless magic bullets, that required you to support keeping unvaccinated women out of Canada the day before Dobbs, there still is the day after. It didn’t disappear because you now don’t want to discuss the confusion your attitude toward it makes for your current cause. If your answer to the above question six months ago was that Canada or California or Hospital X is right to exclude unvaccinated women from entering to get abortions, or for any other reason, and you don’t give the same answer now—well, that will be noticed, and you will be asked to explain.
And if you try to equivocate—well, good luck building solidarity while trying to justify an exception to your apocalyptic public health emergency for pregnant women “plague carriers” and not for those who want to visit their dying mother in Canada or who need a job in California.
We all should fight together for abortion rights, which means we all must be able to do things like travel to and attend meetings and rallies, and get medical treatment, without a state-issued pass. We should all, that is, have the personal freedom of movement and bodily autonomy that are fundamental prerequisites for collective political action. There is no good reason to prevent that. And there never was. Nothing makes an unvaccinated woman, or me, or the myriad of others going to Canada, California, or a restaurant, any less of a “plague carrier” now than we were six months ago. The refusal to recognize and acknowledge that makes for a political (and epistemological) weakness in the abortion-rights movement that will be exploited by its enemies.
I repeat: Justin Trudeau (or Gavin Newsom) preventing women from entering his polity to get an abortion is no better than some Republican governor preventing women from leaving his. There is no way to fudge on that that does not weaken the abortion-rights movement.
The wrinkle needs to be ironed out. Supporting vaccine passports and mandates is pointless, and undermines the consistent support of bodily autonomy that is crucial to cause of abortion rights. Let’s all tell all the politicians, clearly and explicitly, in a way that is easy to understand and will help build the wide and deep political support the abortion-rights movement needs:
Abortion rights are women’s rights!
No vaccine mandates or passports!
My Body, My Choice!
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