The freedom to be selfish Anti-mask, anti-vaxx protesters shamelessly invoke reproductive-rights advocates' slogan to support dangerous, socially irresponsible argument
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/09/2021 (463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The dissonance is striking.
This week, Texas passed the most restrictive abortion law in America. It bans abortions after six weeks — a point at which many women do not even know they are pregnant — and makes it so people who help a patient obtain an abortion, from the doctor who performs the procedure all the way down to the friend or cab driver who takes the patient to the clinic, can be sued by a plaintiff who, per the New York Times, “need not have a connection or show injury.” This is cruel, dangerous and terrifying.
In Manitoba, meanwhile, people are protesting vaccine mandates and masks, waving placards bearing a familiar phrase better suited to protesting what’s happening in Texas: “My body, my choice.”
To all the anti-mask, anti-vaxx protesters out there: Wow. I am honestly so thrilled to see that so many of you are pro-choice! Truly. That’s great. Does this mean you are also going to not only respect but offer your full-throated support of a pregnant person’s right to choose? Are you going to advocate for equitable, accessible abortion care — which is health care — for all people who are pregnant and do not want to be? Are you concerned about what’s happening in Texas?
Yeah. Somehow, I didn’t think so.
Let’s acknowledge the false equivalence between a public-health measure and a personal medical procedure. Last I checked, abortion isn’t contagious, and one person’s choice to get one will not result in several close contacts being put on ventilators.
But the fact that this reproductive-justice slogan has been co-opted by anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers is galling for a pretty simple reason: those who use “my body, my choice” to advocate for reproductive justice actually care about the health and well-being of other people. Those who use it to advocate for their choice not to wear a mask or get a vaccine care only about themselves.
The rollback of reproductive rights is harmful for people who can get pregnant, full stop. Restrictive abortion laws do not prevent unwanted pregnancies or, for that matter, abortions — that’s where comprehensive sex education comes in — it just drives abortions underground, making them dangerous and deadly.
You probably know someone who has had an abortion, which are performed for many, many reasons, not just the ones society has deemed valid (most recognizable as the rape/incest exception, which the new Texas law doesn’t even have). Many people who choose to get abortions are already parents. People who choose to get abortions come from a wide-cross section of age and socio-economic brackets, although their access to the procedure is not the same. Some are wanted pregnancies. Some are unwanted pregnancies. The reasons they are ended are varied and complicated and, frankly, none of your business.
You may never choose to get an abortion. You may never be confronted with that choice. But that doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t have the right to have one. See, “my body, my choice” was never “just” about one individual’s body. It’s about ensuring reproductive justice for all.
“My body, my choice” is not about blocking an emergency entrance to Health Sciences Centre because you’re upset about vaccine mandates; it’s more than a little ironic that a hospital in which the ICU is largely caring for unvaccinated COVID-19 patients was the site of an anti-vaccine protest. It’s not about refusing to get a vaccine to help stop the spread of a virus that has killed more than four million people worldwide and has altered the lives of others who may have survived but are still dealing with symptoms. It’s not about refusing to put a couple centimetres of cloth over your face to help protect living, breathing children.
Your right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated is not being taken away. Your decision may come with undesired consequences — such as increased restrictions and social exclusion — but it’s still a choice available to you.
You want to see what actual rights violations look like? Talk to a person currently trying to get an abortion in Texas.
Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.
Updated on Friday, September 3, 2021 8:12 AM CDT: Fixes typo