Rachel Blueth / Kaiser Health News
In the shadow of LA’s Art Deco City Hall, musicians jammed the stage, kids painted their faces, and families picnicked in lawn chairs. During the festivities, people waved flags, sports T-shirts and sales buttons – all compiled with a familiar slogan: “My Body, My Choice.”
It was not an abortion right assembly. It was not a protest against the recent ruling of the US Supreme Court that was disappointing Rowe vs. Wade. It was the “Defeat the Mandates Rally,” an outrageous gathering of anti-vaccination activists in April to protest some remaining COVID-19 guidelines, such as the Mask Mandate in Mass Transit and the need to vaccinate healthcare workers.
Similar scenes have been seen across the country during the epidemic. Armed with the language of the abortion rights movement, anti-vaccination forces have joined forces with right-leaning reasons to protest the Covid warning.
And they are succeeding. Opponents of the vaccine have coined the slogan “My Body, My Choice,” a slogan that has been inextricably linked to reproductive rights for nearly half a century, to fight masks and vaccine mandates across the country – including California, where lawmakers pledged to adopt the toughest. Vaccine requirements in the United States
As the anti-vaccine party has achieved success, the abortion rights movement has been hit, turning into the June 24 Supreme Court decision that ended the federal constitutional right to abortion. The ruling leaves it up to the states to decide, and 26 states are expected to ban or severely limit abortion in the coming months.
Now that vaccine opposition groups have claimed “my body, my choice”, abortion rights groups are distancing themselves from it – marking a stunning addition to the political message.
“It’s a truly intelligent co-alternative to reproductive rights and the framework for the movement’s issue,” said Lisa Ikemoto, a law professor at the California-Davis Feminist Research Institute. “It reinforces the meaning of choice in the anti-vaccine space and prevents the meaning of that word in place of reproductive rights.”
Formulating the decision to vaccinate privately alone also obscured its public health outcomes, Ikemoto said, because vaccines are used to protect not just an individual but a community that stops the spread of a disease to those who cannot protect themselves. .
Celenda Lake, a Democratic strategist and Washington, DC-based pollster, says “My Body, My Choice” is no longer doing well with Democrats because they associate it with anti-vaccination attitudes.
Rachel Blueth / Kaiser Health News
“What’s really unique about this is that you don’t usually see one side of the base receiving messages from the other side – and succeed,” he said. “That’s what makes it so interesting.”
Jody Hicks, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates in California, acknowledges that the use of the term abortion has worked against the reproductive rights movement. “Right now, it’s frustrating and frustrating to co-opt that messaging and use it to distract from what we’re doing and spread misinformation,” Hicks said.
He said the movement was already moving away from the phrase. Even where abortion is legal, she said, some women cannot “pick” one to get one due to financial or other constraints. The movement is now focusing more on access to healthcare, using catchphrase like “Ban of Our Bodies” and “Say She’s Abortion”.
Increased anti-vaccination movement
Vaccination has not always been political, says Jennifer Rich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado-Denver, who wrote a book on why parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Opposition to the vaccine grew among parents concerned about the need for a school vaccine in the 1980s. Those parents said they did not have enough information about the potential harmful effects of the vaccine, but it was not biased at the time, Reich said.
The issue exploded in the political scene after at least 140 people fell ill in 2014 and 2015 due to measles outbreaks at Disneyland. When California lawmakers went so far as to ban parents from demanding personal waivers for the necessary childhood vaccines, opponents “organized around the notion of medical preference” and “medical freedom.” These opponents have broadened the political spectrum, Rich says.
Then El Covid. The Trump administration has politicized the epidemic from the beginning, starting with masks and orders to stay home. Republican leaders and white missionaries applied that tactic to the ground, Reich said, arguing against the vaccine mandate when covid vaccines were still merely theoretical – intimidating people with rhetoric about personal preference and the loss of vaccine passport images.
Despite an obvious inconsistency they gained traction, he said: Often, the same people who oppose the need for a vaccine – arguing that it is a matter of choice – are against the right to abortion.
“What has really changed is that in the last two or more years, it has become extremely biased,” Rich said.
Joshua Coleman leads V is for Vaccines, a group that opposes vaccine orders. He said he strategically placed the phrase depending on which state he was working in.
“In a state or a city that is life-oriented, they’re not going to connect with that messaging, they don’t believe in full physical autonomy,” Coleman said.
But in places like California, she lectures her “My Body, My Choice” where she thinks it will work, like the annual Women’s March, where she says she can sometimes get feminists to consider her point of view.
The perception of the word “choice” has changed over time, says Alyssa Wolf, a cognitive linguist based in Oakland, Calif. The term now paints a picture of an isolated decision that does not affect the larger community, he said. It can make an abortion seeker prefer personal health as self-centered and a vaccine rejecter as an individual, Wolf said.
Outside of linguistics, anti-vaccination activists are playing politics, deliberately trolling abortion rights groups using their words against them, Wolf said. “I really believe there’s a little bit of ‘If You’ in it,” Wolf said. “We’re going to take your phrase.”
Tom Bladgett, a retired Spanish-language instructor in Chico, California, wore a “My Body, My Choice” shirt with a picture of a cartoon syringe at the Defeat the Mandates rally in Los Angeles. It was “an ironic thing,” he said, meaning he was exposing what he sees as the hypocrisy of Democrats who support both abortion and the vaccine order. Blazett said he was “pro-life” and believed that covid vaccines were not a vaccine but a form of gene therapy, which is not true.
For Blodget, and many other anti-vaccination activists, there is no inconsistency in this position. Abortion is not a personal health decision like taking a shot, they say: it’s just murder.
“Women say they can have an abortion because it’s their body,” Blazett says. “If it’s a legitimate thing for a lot of people, why do I have to take some conjunctival injections?”
About a week later and about 400 miles north of Sacramento, state lawmakers heard Bill’s testimony about abortion and the covid vaccine. The two protests, one against abortion and one against the vaccine order, came together. Trackers of the “People’s Convoy”, a group that opposes the COVID mandate, traveled to the country with the message of “medical freedom” to testify against a bill that would prevent police from investigating abortion or the killing of dead children. Anti-abortion activists lined up to oppose a bill that would update reporting requirements on the state’s vaccine registry.
“My Body, My Choice” was ubiquitous: police horse pet kids in front of the Capitol wore T-shirts with slogans, and truckers watched the sword dance over their heads.
At the time, two tough legal proposals to make the covid vaccine mandatory for schoolgirls and most staff had already been rejected without a vote. A controversial vaccination proposal remains: a bill to allow children 12 years of age or older to be vaccinated against COVID without parental consent.
Lawmakers have since scrapped the measure, raising the minimum age to 15, and it is waiting for a crucial vote. They have turned their attention to the latest political quake: abortion.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that creates in-depth journalism about health issues. It is an editorially independent operating program KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation).