‘My Body, My Choice’: Rescuing the Pro-Abortion Slogan to Promote Vaccine Freedom

31 August 2021

3.1 MINS

For decades, ‘My body, my choice’ has been a mantra for those defending abortion. Given that it is the mother, not the father, who is tasked with carrying a baby to full term, it is understandable for there to be significant debate over the rights and responsibilities of both parties. This is especially so in an age when marriage and lifelong commitment are increasingly scarce commodities.

Now, as covid vaccines have become available globally and the pressure is on for as many people as possible to be vaccinated, this slogan has been repurposed. ‘My body, my choice’ has become a straightforward and relevant motto for those who believe vaccination should be a choice left to individuals — not a mandate imposed on certain industries or by the use of vaccine passports.

Given that those ‘highjacking’ this catchphrase are in many cases against abortion, this has no doubt caused a level of irritation for those who once used it in defence of abortion. The question is, are advocates of vaccine choice right to use the ‘My body, my choice’ argument this way?

The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, ‘My body, my choice’ was never a legitimate defence for abortion in the first place, since abortion actually involves two bodies: that of the mother, and that of the child. The choice to abort a baby — whether it is made by the mother alone, or under duress from the father or others — always results in the tragic destruction of the infant’s body and life.

For this reason, ‘My body, my choice’ is actually a slogan far more relevant to the case for vaccine choice. An individual’s decision to be vaccinated against covid or to abstain from vaccination does not directly impact another person or their autonomy: this is something which cannot be said of abortion.

Yes, there is a case to be made that not being vaccinated can have an indirect impact on others. It may slightly increase the risk of someone else catching the virus, or it could potentially help overwhelm the hospital system, resulting in excess deaths.

But note the contrast. The choice not to be vaccinated does not involve the direct taking of another person’s life. Additionally, it involves many assumptions, possibilities and hypotheticals—one of which is that herd immunity is possible with the covid vaccines available. In fact, experts are now suggesting that the Delta variant has made herd immunity impossible.

Vocal Christian leaders have argued that to refuse to be vaccinated is to not “love your neighbour”. Some have pointed to Jesus’ choice to surrender his rights to save us as the example we should follow in giving up our rights and submitting to the jab.

But this, too, is fraught with bad logic. Again, it assumes the (now unlikely) possibility of herd immunity via vaccines. But it also assumes that someone’s choice not to be vaccinated is selfish.

In reality, there can be a host of good and godly reasons for someone to decline a vaccine — including past vaccine injury, the documented side effects of the available vaccines, and risk assessments that are based on an individual’s health, age, and many other factors that are entirely unique to their circumstance.

From a Christian perspective, the most important issue is that of one’s conscience before God. Scripture commands us not to cause other believers to stumble by forcing them to do something they believe is wrong (1 Corinthians 8:12-13). To do so, says the apostle Paul, is to sin against Christ Himself. God calls us to live another way, the kingdom way. God invites: he never abuses, coerces, guilts or manipulates.

In fact, though individualism has been taken to unhealthy extremes in the modern world, it was Jesus and his followers who gave the West its healthy perspective on individualism — whereby we see human rights and human dignity as sacred.

Bear in mind also that setting aside this positive sense of individualism “for the greater good” is what paved the way for some of history’s worst abuses.

Individual autonomy — understood correctly — is a vital safeguard for ‘the good life’ and for healthy societies. We neglect this at our peril.

‘My body, my choice’ was always misapplied when it came to abortion, because the baby’s choice was by definition always taken away. But ‘My body, my choice’ is logically coherent when used by those calling for medical autonomy.

Every individual should have the right to weigh their personal risks and choose what goes into their own body. To hand this power over to the State takes us back in time, not forwards. And as the great C.S. Lewis observed,

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

[Photos: The Spire; Hakan Nural on Unsplash]

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