ethics, healthcare, politics, rants

“My body, my choice…”

Just to be clear… I am not in agreement with today’s featured photo. I’m just posting it because it’s an idea I’ve seen floating around since COVID-19 started. I don’t think being in favor of allowing abortion of an unintended pregnancy is at all the same thing as the prospect of potentially making a vaccine mandatory is, especially during a global pandemic. Maybe I’d be more in agreement with the comparison if pregnancy could be caused by breathing.

This morning, I read an interesting comment thread on an article in The Washington Post. The article was about how so many people have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 and hoped that things would be getting back to “normal”. But, as the Delta variant continues to spread, and people stubbornly refuse to get vaccinated or take other protective measures against the virus, no one is able to “relax”. Sadly, the vaccines are not proving to be as protective against spreading the sickness as we’d hoped, although evidence suggests that the vaccines help prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

The comment thread was full of the usual finger pointing and nastiness. But then I saw a comment that echoed a common refrain during this pandemic. It was about being “pro-life”, and how people who refuse to take COVID-19 precautions aren’t really pro-life. The last comment in this thread belongs to me. Because I’ve seen the lame responses from Republicans about how vaccine mandates violate the idea of “my body, my choice”.

I am truly baffled by this.

Do I really need to explain why someone who is considering having an abortion is not in the same situation as people who want others to get vaccinated against a disease that spreads through the air? Okay… I’ve got nothing better to do, so here goes.

Everybody has to breathe. There is not a single person in the world who can live without respiring. But COVID-19 primarily spreads through aerosols in the air, and the virus is proving to be extremely wily. Every one of us needs all the help we can get to avoid getting seriously ill. Each new incarnation of the virus is proving to be more contagious than the last, and while many people have gotten COVID and survived, there’s a significant number of people who are winding up in hospitals, seriously ill and dying. Healthcare workers and undertakers are EXHAUSTED, and families are being devastated as family breadwinners are suddenly dying. These are people who are young and were previously perfectly healthy. And they are leaving their spouses and children bereaved and struggling.

An unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that threatens a prospective mother’s life in some way, is not a threat to anyone except the person who is gestating. A developing fetus takes up residence in another human being. I’ve heard and read many Republican legislators referring to pregnant people as “hosts”. As distasteful as the word “host” sounds, there is an element of truth to that concept. A pregnant person is “hosting” a developing person, and that fetus relies entirely on the “host” until it’s born. Many times, the pregnant person is happy to be gestating, but sometimes the pregnancy comes at a bad time. Maybe the person isn’t prepared to be pregnant and is dealing with health and/or economic issues that make pregnancy an insurmountable challenge. Maybe the person is pregnant due to being a crime victim. Maybe the developing fetus has a serious birth defect that would make being born crueler than being aborted.

Lots of issues can come up that would make someone consider ending a pregnancy. Any of the issues that would make someone consider having an abortion are, frankly, no one else’s business. Time and again, I’ve read disgusting comments by conservatives about personal responsibility. So many of them seem to think someone who unintentionally gets pregnant should have to “lie in the bed they made for themselves.” I’ve got news for them, though. NO ONE unintentionally gets pregnant without another person’s participation. That other person isn’t the one whose health is affected by the pregnancy, nor are they the ones whose names are on the medical bills.

Other, uninvolved people don’t want to be responsible for making sure the gestating person gets proper medical care and financial assistance, if it is needed. A lot of the people who think the pregnant person should be forced to gestate against their will also believe they should be shamed and humiliated for being in that situation. Meanwhile, the person who got them pregnant frequently gets off “scot-free”. I might be more willing to accept the pro-life stance if more people actually cared about those babies once they’ve been born. But a lot of people truly don’t care, especially if the baby turns out to have special needs and needs a lifetime of financial and medical assistance.

COVID-19, unlike unintended pregnancy, is spreading like wildfire among unsuspecting people. And no one knows how the virus will affect them. Some people get it and never know they had it. Others get it and are dead within days or weeks. So, to me, it makes perfect sense that the so-called “liberals” are pushing for everyone to be vaccinated. At this point, vaccination seems to be our best hope at arresting this menace before more people die. Maybe someone will come up with an effective treatment, but at this point, that silver bullet hasn’t yet been discovered. People are exhausted by the depressing COVID-19 lifestyle because, for a lot of people, it just plain sucks. So they heap on the pressure for others to do their parts to end the pain. That’s where all the finger pointing and demonizing come into play.

Personally, I’m not a fan of blaming others. COVID-19 is a notoriously easy to spread virus. I don’t think the vast majority of people mean to get infected. A lot of people are doing “everything right”, and they’re still somehow getting sick. But people are frustrated and angry, so they point fingers at others. Finger pointing doesn’t seem like a helpful thing to be doing, in my opinion. But you know human nature… It would be better, of course, if we all came together and cooperated. Fat chance of that happening.

If COVID-19 weren’t so easily spread, I think I would be much less concerned about who’s been vaccinated. I read this morning that the current version of the virus is as contagious as chicken pox. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that having COVID-19 gives anyone permanent immunity. The vast majority of people who get chicken pox will not get it again, although they can get shingles (varicella zoster), which is also pretty shitty. I had shingles when I was 26 years old. It was a mild case, but I sure didn’t enjoy it. It would have been better if I could have avoided being exposed to the varicella virus; that way, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting shingles next time my immune system is on a downward spiral.

I think today’s youngsters, who can get the chicken pox vaccine, are very fortunate. My generation was lucky to get the measles and mumps vaccines. I don’t know anyone who had measles when I was a child, although it was a pretty common childhood illness in previous generations. Lots of people got measles and survived just fine. Others got it and died! Some years later, when being “anti-vax” came into fashion, measles cases went up as some parents, who had never known the horror of measles, stopped vaccinating their kids. Guess what? Some unvaccinated kids started getting measles, got really sick, and were sometimes dying again.

The measles vaccine made what used to be a common childhood illness so rare that people forgot how dangerous it could be. I suspect the same could be true for COVID-19 as it continues to develop and mutate and vaccines and treatments improve. Hopefully, COVID will eventually turn into something much less threatening than it currently is.

Pregnancy, you see, is not spread through the air. People get pregnant, most of the time, by having sex, and one doesn’t have to have sex in order to live. A lot of times, the sex is consensual. Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, the sex is consensual, but the birth control fails. Sometimes, the sex is consensual and the pregnancy is wanted, but the developing fetus has catastrophic birth defects or the mother’s life is in peril. In no case, is another person’s decision to have an abortion harming anyone else or threatening their very life. The only person who is truly affected by the decision to have an abortion is the person who is gestating and doesn’t want to be, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I get that sometimes the father is distressed by the abortion decision, but it’s not his body or health on the line. It’s not his name on the medical bills. It’s not his bladder being danced upon or his blood sugar or blood pressure being raised. ALL of that stuff solely affects the pregnant person.

Unintended pregnancies really only threaten the person who is gestating. I know some might argue that the fetus is also threatened, but the reality is, over 90 percent of abortions occur early in pregnancies, and at that stage of development (under 13 weeks), the embryo or fetus is completely unconscious. Abortions that occur later in pregnancy happen at a much rarer rate, and the ones that happen at beyond 21 weeks gestation make up about 1 percent of the total… and they usually happen because there’s a serious medical issue involving the pregnant person or the fetus.

COVID-19 affects everyone. COVID-19 threatens everyone. People who don’t take precautions legitimately put others at risk.

I don’t think the “my body, my choice” argument often heard from people who rally for abortion rights really applies when it comes to COVID-19. I recognize that not everyone can safely take the vaccine, and some people have had adverse or allergic reactions to it, just as some women have adverse reactions to being pregnant. The difference is, you’re not going to get pregnant if a pregnant person breathes on you. Exposure to a COVID-19 positive person might cause you a serious illness, and you might even get sick enough to die or suffer permanent disability, or spread it to someone else who will get very sick. A COVID-19 positive person might not be recognizable, since he or she can be asymptomatic. And again, every single one of us has to breathe, or we’ll die. COVID-19 is spread through breathing. COVID-19 causes people not to be able to breathe anymore.

“My body, my choice”… when it comes to this virus, there really is no such thing. So, until we come up with an effective treatment or something else that greatly reduces the risk of spreading this disease, I am going to be on the vaccination bandwagon. I think it’s our only hope at this point. And I pray more people join me, although I feel a bit pessimistic about the future. This is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

Standard

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.