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How Abortion and Vaccination Differ on the Issue of Bodily Autonomy

Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

Last updated on July 13, 2022

“My body, my choice.” Anti-vaxxers have grown to hijack an original slogan meant for reproductive rights. Calling this an apples-to-oranges comparison would be an understatement. 

Strangely enough, the pro-choice movement and anti-vaccination movement do both run on the cause of “bodily autonomy.” And as issues on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they typically clash. (This is obviously a generalization, more nuanced voters exist.) Vaccine skeptics accuse the pro-choice movement of hypocritically infringing on their bodily rights while the pro-choice movement reverses this exact logic. 

Conservative Erin Elizabeth affirms, “It is just so preposterous to me that the people saying ‘my body my choice’ are the same ones who demanded that we be vaccinated in order to go to our jobs or in order for our children to go to school.”

Molly Jong-Fast sums up the leftist, inverted perspective: “The same group that wants to make it impossible for you to end your pregnancy is furiously insistent that showing proof of vaccination should be illegal.” 

The ball has been tossed back and forth. Yet, a right to abortion is far more impactful in preserving bodily autonomy than abstaining from a vaccination. 

Why is this the case? 

Professor Stephen Campbell at Bentley University assumes for the sake of the argument that abortion is a serious, intentional decision with the implications that come with a fetus holding the same moral weight as a regular person. If this is so, the harms of not being vaccinated extend to the spread and deaths involving many people, even if not directly. 

The implication of not having abortion access is a physical imposition that poses serious health risks to a mother and necessitates lifetime dedication to raising a child. On the other hand, the cost of a vaccine mandate is getting stuck with a needle, and – despite misinformative theories – nothing else. If someone refuses to receive a vaccination, not being able to enter certain spaces as a result is not comparable to the physical, bodily imposition of bearing a child.

The anti-vaccination movement cannot reasonably compare the effect of mandates on bodily autonomy to that of a limitation on reproductive rights. Doing so only delegitimizes the pro-choice movement at a time when it is so critical.

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