If you’re enjoying these cartoons, you might also enjoy being on a lush tropical island where friendly locals come up to you with a dish of fresh strawberries, which is for themselves, because they’re not here to serve you and mean sheesh why would you even assume something like that? Anyway, those locals all support my patreon, and maybe if you did they’d give you a strawberry.
The point here is obvious – if vaccinations are a terrible imposition on freedom, then why isn’t forced childbirth? A tiny pinprick is nothing at all compared to forced birth, after all.
I can already hear the right-wing objection – “if forced childbirth is wrong, why isn’t forced vaccination also wrong, you lefty wokescold libtard snowflake cuck?”
And the moment the government begins criminalizing turning down a vaccination and threatening to throw people in prison if they turn down the shot, I’ll be the first to say that’s going too far. But of course, that’s not happening.
It all comes down to not treating women and trans men as fully human with all the rights everyone else gets.
In our society, no one can be forced to give up bodily autonomy to provide another person with body parts or any sort – no one is legally forced to donate blood or a kidney to save another person’s life. Not even if that other person is their child.
The idea of involuntarily taking one person’s body (or parts thereof) to save another person is so repulsive to us, it’s a trope in horror films and is considered a human rights violation.
Even corpses have the right not to be involuntarily used like that. If I don’t want my body parts to be donated to save lives, then it’s illegal to take the parts, even if I’ve died.
Everyone but pregnant people.
The biggest hitch, creating this cartoon, was that when it was 75% done I suddenly realized that it was very similar to a cartoon from four months ago, “We Must Ban Treating Meningitis In Kids!” Ooooops. This has happened before, and as long as the subject matter and art is different, I don’t mind – I do a lot of these cartoons, and it’s natural that some tropes recur. But usually those “repeats” happen years apart, not just four months!
I thought about throwing this cartoon away, or at least putting it in a folder for a couple of years. I decided not to for two reasons: First, right now is when cartoonists (and everyone else) should be banging the abortion rights drum and banging it often.
And second, I like this cartoon a bit better than I like the meningitis cartoon. The set-up is less strained; it’s at least imaginable that some readers won’t see where the cartoon is going before reading panel four. (Although I’m sure most of you did see where I was going, because y’all are sharp.) Plus, panel two! Drawing panel two was so fun!
I wasn’t sure how to color this cartoon, and I asked folks on Discord for advice, which eventually led to the decision to make the big glove in panel two blue. I had originally colored it red, which I liked because it seemed so threatening. But people pointed out that blue is a more iconic color for medical folks to wear. I liked the red, but less than I like clearer storytelling, so blue gloves won.
After some discussion with supporter Darren Zieger (thanks Darren!), I’ve decided to go back to having a five-day gap between when I post cartoons online and when I post them in public. That’s what it was when the Patreon began, and the reason it shifted to a gap of months isn’t that anyone asked for that, or that I planned it. It just sort of happened that I put off posting in public, and put it off, and put it off, until the gap was months long. (I’m pretty sure it’s an ADHD thing).
I really hope everyone’s okay with that!
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels. Each panel features the same character: A white guy with a windbreaker (one of the ones where the sleeves are a different color than the body), open over a t-shirt with a big number “1” on it. He’s talking directly to the reader.
This panel shows the man on a blank background, speaking directly to the viewer, raising his hands for emphasis. He has an aggrieved expression.
MAN: A forced vaccine mandate is a slippery slope to totalitarianism!
The same man, but now he’s holding a shield (painting in an American flag motif), which he’s using to fend off a HUGE vaccination needle being aimed at him by a GIGANTIC hand. The hand is wearing a blue latex glove, of the kind that many nurses and doctors wear. His word balloons are at an askew angle, for drama or something, but also because doing it that way let me fit in the word balloons without blocking off the drawing of the giant needle. Cartooning secrets revealed!
MAN: We can’t allow liberals to steal our right to make our own medical choices, based on our own values and religious beliefs!
MAN: Everyone must stand against tyranny!
The man leans very close to the “camera,” so close that the top of his head and the bottom of his chin are both cut off by panel borders. He now looks angry, and he’s raised his voice. The background has turned red, reflecting his anger.
MAN: Even if the vaccine saves lives, government still doesn’t have a right to deprive individuals of our freedom!
MAN: Never! Never ever EVER!
The main is smiling gently and raising a palm at the reader. The background appears to be a cozy living room; we can see framed pictures on the wall, a comfy couch with a couple of throw pillows on it, a side table and a potted cactus on the floor.
MAN: Unless they’re pregnant, of course.
Throwing people is prison is not the only tool of coercion the government and other powerful actors have at their disposal.
Losing your job is a pretty big consequence, and the federal contractor mandate applied even to workers who are fully remote. In other words, it was more about coercion in the service of society than about worker safety.
School kids have to be vaccinated to attend school, even in areas where there is little risk of the disease vaccinated against spreading at school. (Yes; I understand that the argument is that eradicated diseases might come back if people don’t get vaccinated; but my point is that it is more about coercion [for a good cause] at this point than about a logical connection between attending school and spreading certain diseases.)
In short, a lot of vaccine mandates use coercive means (short of criminal consequences) to make people get vaccinated–even beyond what’s necessary to protect other workers or classmates. And presumably, you wouldn’t want the government to fire people who get abortions as a way to coerce people not to get abortions.
(By the way, I’m fully vaccinated and boosted, and I support vaccine mandates. I just don’t think the charge of hypocrisy is as easy to answer as you suggest.)
There is a logical connection between school attendance and vaccination, though — when kids go to school, they mix with other kids, some of whom may well come from other communities, states, and even countries. So maybe measles is not at the moment spreading in your community — but here comes a kid from Other Community, where measles is spreading.
Back when I used to teach freshmen at a huge university, half of everyone spent September ill with some virus or cold, for just that reason. Now imagine it was polio.
Sure; that’s why I included the first example (a mandate for federal contractors, including federal contractors who work remotely).
But also, let’s not kid ourselves. Although there is a tenuous logical connection with school vaccinations, the real reason for school vaccine mandates is to protect society at large, not to prevent spread at the school. To address your scenario, the school could easily craft a more narrowly tailored rule such as requiring only people who come from Other Community to get vaccinated.
The most famous case affirming vaccine mandates was Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905). In that case, which was cited 248 times in 2020 alone and has never been overruled, the issue was whether a fine for not being vaccinated was constitutional. The Supreme Court held that it was constitutional as long as there was smallpox spread in the community. Do you think Jacobson was wrongly decided? I don’t.
By the way, here’s how I would respond to my question if I were you. I would say that there is no categorical rule against intrusions on bodily autonomy but there is a sliding cost-benefit scale to determine when it’s justified.
In the case of vaccines, there is a very small intrusion on bodily autonomy in exchange for a very large societal benefit. In the case of abortion, there is a very large intrusion on bodily autonomy in exchange for a very small societal benefit. (Of course, this argument does not work as well if you think that prenatal beings are persons. But you don’t think that.)
In fact (unlike Barry?), if COVID were more deadly, I would support even criminal penalties (such as fines) for being unvaccinated. Jacobson, for instance, involved smallpox, which had a mortality rate between “20 and 60% of all those infected—and over 80% of infected children.”
For some reason, though, y’all seem reluctant to say that!
Did I misread your first comment? Weren’t you claiming compelling people to be vaccinated was about coercion, not about protecting the population?
It is coercion in order to to protect the general population. I mean, if there’s a “protecting society in general” exception to the right to bodily autonomy, the exception swallows the rule.
After all, all laws are intended to benefit society. I don’t think anyone’s claiming that vaccines don’t help society in general. Amp’s nutty cartoon character says, “Even if the vaccine saves lives, government still doesn’t have a right to deprive individuals of our freedom!” Anti-abortion folks would certainly claim that anti-abortion laws help society in general.
In my first comment, I was addressing the potential objection that vaccine mandates are not coercive punishments but rather just natural consequences (i.e., you have the right not to be vaccinated, but you don’t have the right to infect people at the office.)
To illustrate, if someone says, “You have a right to rob a bank. You just have to go to jail if you do,” they are obviously being a sophist. But still, the purpose of the coercive law against robbing banks is to help protect society from bank robberies.
That’s different from a rule, say, that you have to wear a hardhat as a condition of entering a construction area, even though you generally have a right to choose your headwear.
I’m saying that, practically speaking, vaccine mandates are more like the former.
Just to point out, the government is acting as an employer, not as the government, when it requires its employees and the employees of those it contracts with to be vaccinated. There is no civil or criminal penalty for a government worker or contractor refusing to get vaccinated. They simply don’t work for the government any longer. Anyone who does not want to be vaccinated is free to quit their government/contractor job*.
It has been standard in hospitals and clinics to require a flu vaccine for years. Is that coercion?
Delagar has already gone over the situation with schools, but to reinforce: schools are a place where people from different communities mix. Different communities mean different strains of viruses and bacteria. Bacterial meningitis is a notorious and deadly risk during the first year in college. If you were going to require vaccination in only one place, I’d probably go with schools before even hospitals. Hospitals at least have protective gear.
*Or take one of the, IMHO, excessively liberal exemptions from the requirement.
Hey, it’s not your fault that restricting bodily autonomy for people who aren’t cis, white men is the “in” thing for Republicans to do right now.
I can’t believe you don’t see the flaw in this argument: Other Community is a relative thing. Vaccinate the kids from Other Community and they’ll catch the variants of cold/flu/meningitis/whatever else from Our Community and bring them home to Other Community, where an epidemic will break out, gene mixing will occur, and shortly they’ll be bringing back resistant whatever. As, indeed, has happened and is happening, repeatedly, with covid.
I’m not sure what you consider the threshold for deadly enough to be concerned about, but I consider a disease that has killed 1/3 of 1% of the entire population*, decreased average life expectancy by nearly two years (so far), and causes a variety of sequelae including diabetes, arterial thrombosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome pretty alarming. ETA: And has led to excess mortality despite public health measures that have decreased death from other respiratory illnesses–flu and pneumonia deaths are down and incremental improvements in medical care.
*Probably an underestimate of about 30%.
I think you’re seriously downplaying the extent to which this is coercion by the government. Losing your job or losing a million dollar contract is a huge consequence. And the government is still subject to the Constitution in its role as an employer. See, e.g., Pickering v. Board of Ed. of Township High School Dist. 205, Will Cty., 391 U.S. 563, 568, (1968). Back when Roe was the law of the land, would you think it should be constitutional for the Trump administration to announce that it was firing any civil servant who obtained an abortion? “Anyone who wants an abortion is free to quit their government/contractor job.” (You can point out that abortion is not contagious but that’s why I’m specifically talking about contractors who only work remotely.)
Maybe my use of “coercion” is confusing. To be clear, I consider “coercion” to be a neutral thing–sometime good and sometimes bad. Laws prohibiting mugging are coercive, because they say, “If you mug someone, the government will punish you.” But laws prohibiting mugging are good!
I’m just saying that, similarly, firing a work-at-home contractor for refusing to be vaccinated is intended to be coercive.
I do consider COVID to be deadly enough to be concerned about! That’s why I support vaccine mandates! I just don’t think it’s deadly enough to justify criminal punishments for not getting vaccinated. But I do think smallpox was deadly enough to justify criminal punishments for not getting vaccinated.
I’m not sure what you’re saying here. This sounds like an argument for excluding people from Other Communities or imposing a quarantine period. Don’t you have the same problem if everyone gets vaccinated?
But I do feel like this is missing my point a little. I support mandatory school vaccines! My only point is that the main purpose of school vaccinations for rare diseases like polio is to not to protect the school kids but to protect society.
Losing your job is a pretty big consequence
Yes it is, and in fact that is ALSO a consequence of pregnancy very, very often, so thanks for pointing that out.
This is obviously true. (And it’s rightfully illegal, though the law is not well-enforced!)
I am missing the connection between this and anything I said, though. I don’t think the government should fire anyone for getting pregnant, and we should pass stronger laws to prevent it.
But what does that have to do with whether vaccine mandates punish people for choosing not to get vaccinated? (Again, my position is that they do punish people and that that is a good thing.)
I agree that things like employment requirements and school enrollment requirements are coercive. But I think it makes sense to distinguish between levels of coercion; job loss is bad, but it’s generally not as coercive as prison.
I don’t think that’s enough. To justify criminal punishments for non-vaccination, imo we’d not only have to know that the disease was deadly enough to require extreme measures (like throwing people in jail), we’d have to have good reason to believe that less extreme measures wouldn’t suffice.
In the case of smallpox, I haven’t been able to figure out how many states ever had criminal penalties for refusing smallpox vaccination. According to this paper:
(Jacobson v Massachusetts was in 1905.)
Although Jacobson was a case about a criminal penalty, the penalty in question was a monetary fine, not jail time. As far as I can tell, smallpox was eradicated in the U.S. without most states making it a matter of on criminal law, and even those criminal laws that existed didn’t involve putting people in jail. (Again, as far as I know; I’m finding this an oddly difficult thing to research.)
If it were the case that the only effective way to fight smallpox had been widespread criminal penalties, then I think that would have been justified, so I agree with you about that. But it doesn’t seem like that was necessary in practice.
Ampersand @ 13,
So do you think that Jacobson was rightly decided or wrongly decided?
Although fines are certainly less coercive than jail time, they still constitute a criminal penalty for a refusal to submit to an invasion of bodily autonomy.
In fact, threatening to fire someone is obviously more coercive than threatening a fine. The fine in Jacobson was a one-time fine of $5, which is about $150 today. Even a minimum wage worker makes more than that in a single week.
I agree that losing a job is a bigger deal, for most people, than a $150 fine. But there are other factors to consider – having a vaccination be a job requirement is pretty narrowly aimed at making that workplace safer for all who work there, and for customers. A requirement that all people be vaccinated, regardless of their lives or circumstances, is much broader.
(A case like someone who works remotely and never, ever, ever would need to see coworkers in person is an exception, but it’s also a pretty edge case, I suspect.)
I’m too lazy/busy to go read Jacobson, so I can’t say if I think it was rightly decided – like, for me, that would depend on factors like if it would also allow a state to throw someone in prison for refusing to vaccinate. (The devil is in the details, blah blah). But if the decision is reasonably narrow, I’d probably agree with it.
A minor punishment like an $150 fine (or a larger-but-short-of-jail-time punishment like firing a remote worker) is still a punishment. And it’s a punishment for insisting on bodily autonomy.