A favorite saying of those who oppose vaccines, or at least vaccine mandates, is, “My body, my choice!” it’s also the favorite saying of feminists defending abortion rights. Yet the anti-vaxxers are more likely to be Republicans, and therefore most likely to consider themselves pro-life and anti-abortion. One hopes that the anti-vaxxers will see that taking the jab is, in its own way, as much an affirmation of life as they believe opposition to abortion is.
The pandemic is surging. Over 800,000 Americans have now lost their lives. The omicron variant seems to be spreading like wildfire. Yet millions of Americans still refuse to be vaccinated despite the evidence that the vaccinated are less likely to become ill, less likely to require hospitalization should they contract a breakthrough illness since they’re symptoms will be milder, and less likely to spread the virus to others.
Divisions are largely along party lines. About 90% of Democrats have been vaccinated, but only 60% of Republicans. In Congress, most senators, whether Republican or Democratic, have been vaccinated. But in the House of Representatives, while almost all Democrats have been vaccinated, only about half the Republicans have been vaccinated. If Republicans would accept the jabs at the same rate the Democrats do, the pandemic would almost certainly be less severe and less rapidly spreading. But they won’t—at least not yet–and the pandemic isn’t.
To be certain, those commonly identified as “anti-vaxxers” usually say, “We don’t oppose vaccines—we simply oppose government mandating vaccines. People should have the freedom to decide for themselves whether to take the jab or not.” In that sense they sound a lot like the pro-choice feminists who say, “We don’t really like abortion. But we don’t want government controlling our bodies by telling us we can’t have abortions. Each woman should have the freedom to decide for herself whether to have an abortion.”
Now the common response of pro-lifers is to say, “We don’t really want to control women’s bodies. We want to protect the bodies of their unborn babies. We believe women should have the right to decide for themselves whether to get pregnant, but once new and innocent life is created, it should not be destroyed simply because its mother concluded she made a mistake in allowing herself to become pregnant.” In other words, pro-lifers are saying they don’t want to control women, but they do want to prevent women from hurting others, in this instance, their unborn babies. (Unfortunately for the pro-life movement, the most radical pro-lifers go so far as to say ALL abortion is wrong and should be prohibited; more moderate—and in my opinion, more rational—pro-lifers agree that abortion should be an option for victims of rape and incest, as well as for women whose lives and health are endangered by their pregnancies).
It is this rationale pro-lifers use to oppose abortion—that the right of adults to make choices about their personal lives should not include the right to harm others—that can, and should, be used to promote vaccinations n America. Just as they want government action to prevent abortion, they should want government action to promote vaccination, since the vaccinated are less likely to either become ill or to make others ill. Both opposition to abortion and support of vaccination should be seen as pro-life stances.
But what sort of government action should be taken? Pro-lifers have no problem with greater government invention in women’s lives to prevent abortion. One would think they might support government vaccine mandates, if not to reduce their own chances of becoming ill, then to at least reduce the chances they’ll make others ill.
But mandates to use masks and get jabbed, or at least get regular testing, are becoming less and less realistic politically. It’s only natural for people to resent being told by the government what to do; hence the continuing public support for abortion rights, at least under some circumstances, as well as the erosion of support, even among Democrats in Congress, for President Biden’s proposed vaccine mandate for private businesses, now before the Supreme Court. Moreover, however well-intended and beneficial vaccine mandates or other government directives may be, the fact remains that the more power the government gets to issue directives of any sort, the more likely it will be to keep acquiring power. Power feeds on power. Vaccine mandates are not the moral equivalent, as some Facebook memes indicate, of one-way train tickets to Auschwitz. But there is always the danger than any mandate may begin the process of sliding down a slippery slope to…something.
But while resistance to vaccination mandates grow, and the prospect of effective government action dims, constructive options for those who are pro-life but who oppose vaccine mandates remain. They can support more government funding for research and development of effective vaccines, treatments, and cures. They can promote more effective education programs to help the public deal with the pandemic—knowledge is power. They can add their voices to those advocating vaccination as a pro-life strategy as worthy of support as efforts to reduce abortion. But most importantly, the pro-lifers must expand their meaning of what it means to be pro-life. They should not take the narrow view that only the lives of the unborn matter. To the contrary, to ALL lives matter, and ALL threats to ALL lives must be combatted.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.