Abortion, Mandatory Vaccination, and Bodily Autonomy

I’m personally very pro-choice, but my beliefs have a lot to do with humility (I don’t have much stake in the issue so I should maybe listen to those that do) coupled with my beliefs about moral philosophy (rights accrue to those who can appreciate them, and fetuses can’t really appreciate much of anything). The “bodily autonomy” argument has never really persuaded me, although a lot of people who I respect very much find it very persuasive.

I’m personally very pro-mandatory-vaccination, because I think that your right to decide what happens with your body should be balanced against how that exercise of those rights affects others.

I don’t claim enormous philosophical consistency, but in this case, I think there’s some.

My question is for folks who accept the bodily autonomy argument in one of these instances, but not the other. That is, for folks who are pro-choice because of bodily autonomy, but pro-mandatory vaccination; or for folks who are anti-choice, but anti-mandatory-vaccination because of bodily autonomy. What distinction do you draw between the two cases such that bodily autonomy applies in one but not the other?

I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re looking for, but I think it comes down to just not being an absolutist. Bodily autonomy is a good guiding principle, and in the cases of abortion or marijuana consumption, say, there is not compelling counter-interest to override that principle. With vaccinations, public health - and in particular, the health of those who can’t get the vaccine or for whom the vaccine doesn’t work - is a very compelling counter-interest.

My freedom to swing my fist ends before it hits your nose. Those who go about unvaccinated (especially without wearing a mask) are swinging their fists and hitting my nose.

The freedom to ends one’s pregnancy does not include the right to end the viability of an embryo. But an embryo is not a person yet, so the fact that ending a pregnancy currently necessitates ending its viability is not enough to deny the rights of the pregnant person. (This may require reevaluation in the future given sufficiently advanced medicine.)

If they won’t let you into the restaurant/bar/foreign country unless you have an up-to-date record of such-and-such vaccinations, it is not a threat to your bodily autonomy, exactly.

I am pro-choice and agree with the logic Pleonast set out above. I don’t have a philosophical problem with mandatory vaccination, but I see it as an impractical proposal because the number of people who would resist is simply too large for it to be enforceable.

This strikes me as a national health policy matter, not an enforceability challenge.

Bodily autonomy has a strong appeal for me.

To that end, I oppose forced abortions. Parents mandating that their children not receive protective immunizations strikes me as a violation of their kids’ bodily autonomy and thus wrong as well.

I’m pro-choice and sorta pro-mandatory vaccinations. With covid, your choice to get protection from the virus affects me and everyone else.

With abortion, no other person is affected. Certainly not the fetus, who isn’t a person. (At least until 20-something weeks, when it develops a human nervous system.)

That’s more or less where I’m coming from. But here, and elsewhere, I’ve encountered people saying that the fetus’s personhood is not the issue: the issue is bodily autonomy. The issue is that it’s never okay to tell someone that they must do something with their body for the good of others.*

I’m curious about how folks who hold this position feel about the idea of vaccine mandates.

If I’m misrepresenting this please forgive me, I’m not trying to, and also please don’t treat this description as a debate opponent, because it’s not my position and I may not be representing it fully.

‘All I can say is, it’s about time you all recognized my position on bodily autonomy was correct all along!’
Mary ‘Typhoid Mary’ Mallon

I think it all comes down to the severity of the matter and the inconvenience caused.

Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term against her will imposes a very heavy personal burden on her. Requiring someone to get vaccinated against Covid poses very little, if any, personal burden on them. So it wouldn’t be contradictory for someone to say bodily autonomy applies in the former but not the latter.

I’m a very strong believer in bodily autonomy. BUT I also believe that sometimes, individual liberties need to be subverted to the common good. Therefore, while I don’t have a personal position on the matter, I would not actually mind if the government mandated that everyone get certain vaccinations that were necessary to stop an epidemic. Whether COVID warrants this, I don’t have a personal position, but I wouldn’t oppose such a measure. I got vaccinated voluntarily, not because I’m afraid of what would happen to me if I got COVID, but out of solidarity with the rest of society to do my part to help this madness end.

On the issue of abortion, I am completely pro-choice. I am in favor of “abortion on demand”. However, I used to be a staunch pro-lifer. This was because the nature of abortion was misrepresented to me and I saw the fetus as a sentient human. I know now, however, that according to science, fetuses, at least in their early stages, are not sentient. Speaking from the perspective of a former pro-lifer, I have to say that when people just say “her body, her choice” as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, they are shooting the pro-life movement in the foot. I think it’s perfectly fair to consider the question of whether a fetus is a person or a living being and just dismissing that question by considering only the perspective of the pregnant woman makes you look one-sided and will do nothing to convince those who think the fetus should have rights as well. Now, it’s a possible position to take that because the fetus is dependent on the woman’s body, it has no independent rights even if it is sentient, and I don’t say I agree or disagree (in fact it’s largely a moot point - as I said, fetuses are believed not to be sentient in their early stages, which is when most abortions, AFAIK, take place), but just bandying about “her body, her choice” without further defense of your position will not be convincing toward those who do consider the fetus to have human rights. I say all this as someone who is now pro-choice one way or the other and who now believes that a fetus’ lack of sentience disqualifies it from personhood, in which case abortion on demand is justified one way or the other.

That’s pretty much my point of view. I’m pro-abortion up until the fetus is viable outside the womb then it should be born and put on tubes at the government expense rather than aborted.

I’m also pro-mandatory vaccination. In the sense that to access or be employed by public services you must be vaccinated. I don’t think this effects bodily autonomy because people can choose to not to be employed or use public services. Really this comes down to the unvaccinated effect on the rest of the public, if your presence is a net negative to the public then you can be removed it doesn’t matter if you’re starting fights or spreading a deadly disease.

I think that statement is too broad. For me, a lot hinges on questions like who is doing the telling (government or private citizens)? how/when/why is that person/group talking at all? how it is being enforced? and what are the consequences of non-compliance & who administers those consequences?

I think I would have a huge problem with government actors going door-to-door with needles, coolers full of Comirnaty, and law enforcement officers who will put people in jail unless they agree to take the vaccine. Luckily, that’s not happening.
I have much less of a problem with employers, private companies and government building and space managers saying that it’s too risky to allow you to endanger their employees, customers, and members of the public because you’re a health hazard, so you need to stay away until you’re not anymore, either because you are vaccinated or covid is no longer a problem.

Yup. I would never say that the government has the right to vaccinate you by force against your will (or perform any other medical procedure on you against your will, unless you’re a convicted felon or something and even then only in very restricted circumstances).

But I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the government to say “okay, we’re not going to forcibly vaccinate you against this deadly and highly transmissible disease, but if you insist on remaining unvaccinated then you have to stay away from other people in order to reduce your chances of getting and spreading this deadly and highly transmissible disease”.

If you’re willing to isolate yourself sufficiently to keep your risk of disease transmission below a reasonable threshold, then I don’t care if you don’t get vaccinated. But if you don’t get vaccinated and still insist on being able to go everywhere and do everything that vaccinated people do, even though you’re a much higher public-health risk than they are, then you are selfishly endangering other people to indulge your own personal preference for avoiding the vaccine. I don’t think society has to tolerate that.

I do concede that somebody who refuses to vaccinate and thus can’t obtain or access work they need for their livelihood should be entitled to the same basic support services provided to other people who can’t work. Yes, this policy is likely to generate some nonzero population of “vaccine welfare queens”, but ISTM that that’s better than any of the realistic alternatives.

We’ve established that mandatory vaccination just means get vaccinated or get penalized, and thus has precious little to do with bodily autonomy. Except in the sense that the unvaccinated/unmasked may be violating the bodily autonomy of their victims.
But bodily autonomy is hardly absolute. If some suicide bomber sewed a bomb inside himself set to blow up half the city in an hour, I don’t think he can prevent the bomb squad from cutting him open to retrieve and disarm it by claiming bodily autonomy. On the other side, if we could chat intelligently with a fetus I at least would change my opinion about abortions.
In any case this situation is not new. School children must get vaccinated to go to class, and this isn’t seen as a violation of their bodily autonomy, since they can be home schooled if they object too much.

I’d have a problem with performing surgery on the bomber. He should have the right to prevent the state from cutting him open. He should also have the ability to choose how he dies. What he doesn’t get to decide is the location. So my preference would be the bomber would be taken to the middle of no where, bomb range, quarry, ocean and allowed to detonate.

Have you ever tried to have an intelligent conversation with a 2 year old? They’re all a bunch of adorable idiots. It’s a miracle any of them survive early childhood.

Paging Mister Klepper … Mister Jordan Klepper …

I find myself in agreement with Velocity.

If getting vaccinated had the impact on one’s body and one’s life that continuing a pregnancy to term does, I’d be astonished if any of the vaccines would have ever been even provisionally approved. We wouldn’t be arguing about requiring them, we’d be anxiously wondering whether vaccines with a low enough side effect impact would ever be developed.

Bodily autonomy is a major issue for me, but it’s not an unlimited one. A blastocyte, embryo, or early-stage fetus is not a person, so that issue doesn’t arise until later in term. For late-term abortions, the particular medical situation needs to be considered, as well as balancing the pregnant person’s bodily autonomy against a late-term fetus’; but the medical people and the pregnant person concerned are in a far better position to do so than any legislature, because it has to be a case by case issue.

There are plenty of other issues for which bodily autonomy is highly important, but needs to be balanced against other factors. Pretty much everything involving how people are to be able to live together requires such balancing acts.