What does Bodily Autonomy mean?

One of my values is: My body. My choice.

When I saw the photo in the TU of the protester at the recent “Reopen Florida” rally with a sign about bodily autonomy, it got me to thinking.

What is the difference–as it relates to bodily autonomy–between gay rights, consent to being touched, abortion, and vaccines?

The difference is that vaccines and other requirements around Covid-19 are designed to protect my body and those of my loved ones especially those with compromised immune systems. If people don’t adhere to the guidelines and suggestions, then MY body might be harmed.

I’m a freedom loving individual so I tend not to favor authoritarian laws. I would hope that everyone could be convinced to do the things that would protect the lives of others. But what should we do if people don’t voluntarily keep six feet away from us and if they refuse to take the vaccine once it’s available?

The guy, who was carrying the sign about bodily autonomy and about his desire that the vaccine not be mandated, was also carrying a sign about V. A. Shiva Ayyadurai. According to Wikipedia, Dr. Shiva wrote that a national lockdown was unnecessary and advocated that large doses of vitamins could prevent and cure the disease.

Are people that haven’t seen the polio or measles epidemic the only ones that think vaccines are not necessary? We need to learn from history even if we haven’t personally lived it.

I do find it odd that Trump seems to be egging on these anti-vaxxers while at the same time pushing for vaccines and medications that aren’t properly tested. I don’t want to take a vaccine that isn’t properly tested. It might do more harm than good. However, I do hope everyone wants to take the vaccine that is proven safe once it is available if they don’t already have the antibody against this new virus that is infectious even when the carrier is asymptomatic.

Questions of fairness and bodily autonomy and freedom of conscience are important for our country.  It is my belief that the First Amendment to our Constitution was trying to balance the competing rights of people within a community.  It is my belief that the First Amendment should not give special privileges to certain groups but it should be used as a tool to see if a regulation or rule is too egregious. If one group can arbitrarily be exempt from the law, then perhaps the law isn’t actually needed.  And if the law is needed, then why would one group be allowed to arbitrarily be exempt?

This is being brought to light in a recent court case in Kansas. Some churches want to be exempt from some of the laws which aim to protect the community from covid-19. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an organization whose mission statement includes protecting religious liberty,  submitted an amicus brief about the case.  My understanding of their brief: groups can’t use religious liberty as a reason to harm others. The First Amendment should be used as a shield to protect an individual and not as a sword to harm others.


Link to photo of the guy carrying the Dr. Shiva and bodily autonomy sign:

Link to wikipedia where I got the quote about Dr. Shiva:

Article about Trump and vaccines:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State issued press releases regarding churches that want to be exempt from the laws aimed to reduce the spread of covid-19:

I used the phrase authoritarian laws but maybe paternalist laws would have been a better term.  Quote from this article:

It is paternalism for the government to tell you that you cannot imbibe noxious substances that will rot your brain. It is paternalism to tell you that you cannot indulge your hedonistic desires to the detriment of your productivity or your everlasting soul.   …

If the only consequence of reckless behavior is that engaging in it will cause YOU harm, that is one thing. You might underestimate your risk or the baneful consequences, but those are risks for you to take and you can suffer the consequences of those risks.

But in the case of COVID-19, self-harm is not the only or even the primary consequence of ignoring the recommended guidelines. The consequence of engaging in reckless behavior is that you dramatically heighten the risk of spreading the disease to others and as a consequence of significantly harming or even killing them.

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