‘My Body, My Choice’: How Vaccine Foes Co-Opted the Abortion Rallying Cry

ByLois C

Jul 7, 2022 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

LOS ANGELES — In the shadow of L.A.’s artwork deco Metropolis Hall, musicians jammed onstage, young children acquired their faces painted, and family members picnicked on lawn chairs. Amid the festivity, individuals waved flags, sported T-shirts, and bought buttons — all emblazoned with a acquainted slogan: “My System, My Alternative.”

This wasn’t an abortion legal rights rally. It wasn’t a protest towards the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gutted Roe v. Wade. It was the “Defeat the Mandates Rally,” a jubilant accumulating of anti-vaccine activists in April to protest the number of remaining covid-19 guidelines, this kind of as mask mandates on mass transit and vaccination necessities for health and fitness care personnel.

Similar scenes have played out throughout the nation for the duration of the pandemic. Armed with the language of the abortion legal rights movement, anti-vaccine forces have converged with right-leaning results in to protest covid precautions.

And they are succeeding. Vaccine opponents have appropriated “My Body, My Preference,” a slogan that has been inextricably linked to reproductive rights for almost half a century, to combat mask and vaccine mandates across the region — which include in California, in which lawmakers experienced vowed to adopt the toughest vaccine specifications in the U.S.

As the anti-vaccine contingent has notched successes, the abortion legal rights motion has taken strike immediately after strike, culminating in the June 24 Supreme Court docket selection that ended the federal constitutional right to abortion. The ruling leaves it up to states to choose, and up to 26 states are expected to ban or severely limit abortion in the coming months.

Now that anti-vaccination teams have laid assert to “My System, My Selection,” abortion legal rights groups are distancing by themselves from it — marking a beautiful annexation of political messaging.

“It’s a really savvy co-solution of reproductive legal rights and the movement’s framing of the situation,” mentioned Lisa Ikemoto, a regulation professor at the College of California-Davis Feminist Investigation Institute. “It strengthens the this means of alternative in the anti-vaccine house and detracts from the which means of that term in the reproductive rights place.”

Framing the selection to vaccinate as a singularly individual just one also obscures its public well being penalties, Ikemoto claimed, mainly because vaccines are made use of to defend not just a single particular person but a local community of people by halting the unfold of a illness to all those who simply cannot guard by themselves.

Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist and pollster based in Washington, D.C., reported “My Physique, My Choice” is no for a longer time polling very well with Democrats because they associate it with anti-vaccination sentiment.

“What’s actually special about this is that you really do not generally see a person side’s base adopting the message of the other side’s base — and succeeding,” she stated. “That’s what would make this so intriguing.”

Jodi Hicks, president of Prepared Parenthood Affiliates of California, acknowledged that the appropriation of abortion legal rights terminology has worked from the reproductive rights motion. “In this moment, to co-choose that messaging and distract from the get the job done that we’re executing, and employing it to spread misinformation, is aggravating and it’s disappointing,” Hicks reported.

She explained the motion was by now gravitating absent from the phrase. Even where by abortion is authorized, she mentioned, some gals simply cannot “choose” to get one mainly because of fiscal or other obstacles. The motion is now focusing a lot more heavily on access to wellness care, utilizing catchphrases this sort of as “Bans Off Our Bodies” and “Say Abortion,” Hicks claimed.

Vaccination has not normally been this political, stated Jennifer Reich, a sociology professor at the College of Colorado-Denver, who has created a guide about why dad and mom refuse vaccines for their children. Opposition to vaccines grew in the 1980s amongst moms and dads anxious about college vaccine necessities. Individuals moms and dads mentioned they did not have ample information and facts about vaccines’ likely harmful outcomes, but it was not partisan at the time, Reich reported.

The concern exploded on to the political scene following a measles outbreak tied to Disneyland sickened at the very least 140 people today in 2014 and 2015. When California lawmakers moved to prohibit moms and dads from declaring personal perception exemptions for essential childhood vaccines, opponents organized all around the plan of “medical choice” and “medical independence.” These opponents spanned the political spectrum, Reich stated.

Then arrived covid. The Trump administration politicized the pandemic from the outset, commencing with masks and remain-at-dwelling orders. Republican leaders and white evangelicals applied that approach on the floor, Reich reported, arguing in opposition to vaccine mandates when covid vaccines have been however only theoretical — scaring people today with rhetoric about the loss of private option and visuals of vaccine passports.

They attained traction inspite of an obvious inconsistency, she claimed: Normally, the exact same people who oppose vaccine prerequisites — arguing that it’s a matter of decision — are towards abortion rights.

“What’s genuinely altered is that in the very last two or so several years, it is turn into highly partisan,” Reich reported.

Joshua Coleman qualified prospects V is for Vaccine, a group that opposes vaccine mandates. He reported he deploys the phrase strategically depending on what condition he’s working in.

“In a condition or a city that is extra professional-existence, they’re not going to connect with that messaging, they don’t consider in total bodily autonomy,” Coleman reported.

But in locations like California, he requires his “My Physique, My Choice” rhetoric where he thinks it will be productive, like the annual Women’s March, where he states he can occasionally get feminists to consider his point of view.

Notion of the word “choice” has modified more than time, reported Alyssa Wulf, a cognitive linguist primarily based in Oakland, California. The phrase now evokes an picture of an isolated choice that doesn’t affect the broader neighborhood, she stated. It can frame an abortion seeker as self-centered, and a vaccine rejector as an personal building a personal overall health choice, Wulf mentioned.

Past linguistics, anti-vaccination activists are actively playing politics, intentionally trolling the abortion legal rights groups by employing their terms towards them, Wulf mentioned. “I truly believe that there’s a very little little bit of an ‘eff you’ in that,” Wulf reported. “We’re likely to acquire your phrase.”

Tom Blodget, a retired Spanish-language instructor from Chico, California, sported a “My Body, My Choice” shirt — entire with an graphic of a cartoon syringe — at the Defeat the Mandates Rally in Los Angeles. It was “an ironic detail,” he explained, intended to expose what he sees as the hypocrisy of Democrats who help both abortion and vaccine mandates. Blodget claimed he is “pro-life” and believes that covid vaccines are not immunizations but a sort of gene therapy, which is not true.

For Blodget, and lots of other anti-vaccination activists, there is no inconsistency in this place. Abortion is not a individual overall health decision akin to getting a shot, they say: It is merely murder.

“Women say they can have an abortion for the reason that it is their body,” Blodget said. “If that is a valid issue for a good deal of men and women, why must I have to choose an injection of some concoction?”

About a 7 days later and practically 400 miles to the north in Sacramento, state lawmakers read testimony on costs about abortion and covid vaccines. Two protests, a person against abortion and just one from vaccine mandates, converged. Truckers from the “People’s Convoy,” a team that opposes covid mandates that had been touring the country with its message of “medical independence,” testified towards a monthly bill that would end law enforcement from investigating miscarriages as murders. Anti-abortion activists lined up to oppose a bill that would update reporting demands to the state’s vaccine registry.

“My Physique, My Choice” was ubiquitous: Young children petting police horses in entrance of the Capitol wore T-shirts with the slogan, and truckers viewing a sword dance toted signs above their heads.

At the time, two tough legislative proposals to mandate covid vaccines for schoolchildren and most employees had presently been shelved with out a vote. 1 controversial vaccination proposal remained: a invoice to allow for kids 12 and more mature to get covid vaccines with no parental consent.

Lawmakers have since watered down the measure, boosting the minimal age to 15, and it awaits critical votes. They have shifted their focus to the newest political earthquake: abortion.

This story was manufactured by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially unbiased services of the California Health and fitness Treatment Basis.

KHN (Kaiser Wellbeing News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health and fitness problems. Collectively with Coverage Analysis and Polling, KHN is just one of the three main functioning applications at KFF (Kaiser Loved ones Basis). KFF is an endowed nonprofit group offering info on health problems to the nation.

USE OUR Articles

This story can be republished for free (specifics).

By Lois C