Volume 20, Issue 7
Since the Texan legislature passed their ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ abortion legislation last week, I’ve had to endure a bunch of cringy takes from classmates cosplaying as Americans. As much as Texas is beginning to resemble a ‘shithole state’, the sky remains safely above our heads in Melbourne.
The dry, uninteresting observation that almost none of us have any connection to Texas whatsoever didn’t prevent ‘my body my choice’ from swamping my Instagram feed. I found this tiresome, precisely because I agree with it; precisely because we all agree with it. Pretending that you are part of the thin red line holding the breach against the Victorian Taliban is annoying. It minimises the real courage of women in the American South, and a hundred other places besides, who face the very real prospect of their bodies being taken from them.
Here, bodily autonomy is sacrosanct.
Bodily autonomy, of course, is the fundamental right which abortion recognises. It is a foundational premise of our law. Ironic then, that many of the people who vocally support this principle when it pertains to overseas abortion rights, are also those in favour of vaccine mandates right here at home. The two are weird co-travellers in the left-wing political space I inhabit.
Obviously, ‘vaccine mandate’ doesn’t mean that a policeman is going to shoot you with a dart gun. However, the policy as outlined in Victoria does mean that people who have not received a vaccine will be excluded from large parts of public life.
Here is where the comparison with abortions is useful. Proponents of the exclusion policy smilingly say they are not forcing anybody to take a vaccine. However, imagine the justified outrage if the Victorian Government were to announce they were not banning abortions…but you’re not allowed in the pub if you’ve had one.
The natural disgust you feel imagining such a world springs from its utter disregard for a person’s right to their own body. Why, then, is this response absent when it comes to vaccine mandates?
One obvious reason is that, unlike an abortion, declining a vaccine can make you a disease vector. However, as fewer and fewer people who want vaccines are unable to get them, this justification is wearing thin. In light of the Delta variant, we can no longer even bet on vaccines preventing us from contracting COVID, meaning the vaccinated are also vectors. Nevertheless, the vaccinated are incredibly safe from serious harm.
Despite this, the hatred of the unvaccinated persists. It is socially permissible to hold them in contempt, and entirely appropriate to exclude them from society, merely because they made a certain decision regarding their health. We, as the majority, are blithely giving ourselves the authority to tell them what they can and cannot do with their bodies.
The obvious lack of substance in many of my classmates’ political positions is disappointing. Despite loudly proclaiming their purported values on social media, for many of them, the commitment to bodily autonomy is only skin deep.
Publius is a third year JD student
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