Right-wing media have adopted the pro-choice mantra “my body, my choice” to attack vaccine mandates, connecting two major news events from earlier this month. These supposedly overlapping narratives came as the nation’s strictest abortion law, Texas’ SB 8, went into effect on September 1, effectively banning at least 85% of abortions in Texas, according to providers. Just over a week later, the Biden administration announced new vaccination guidelines for both private-sector and federal employees, mandating vaccines for federal workers and giving most privately employed individuals the choice to receive the vaccine or undergo weekly testing.
Reiterating right-wing stances against COVID-19 protections like masks and vaccinations and taking advantage of the cultural spotlight on reproductive rights, conservatives protestors have misappropriated the pro-choice slogan “my body, my choice” to push back against the vaccine mandates. But discussions surrounding abortion access and vaccination requirements are fundamentally different, as the “choice” not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine affects not just the unvaccinated individual but also potentially spreads the virus to others.
By adopting this language during one of the greatest periods of precarity in the history of reproductive rights in the U.S., right-wing media figures are cementing their places as abortion adversaries and further advancing their efforts to vilify COVID-19 health guidelines and vaccine distribution. Here are some examples:
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused the left of abandoning the pro-choice slogan “my body, my choice” in favor of COVID-19 protections: “The very same people who’ve told us for decades now that it's ‘my body my choice’ — and seemed to mean it when they said it — those same people abandoned their own argument immediately when COVID arrived. Suddenly, on a dime, they turned and they were demanding that we wear the mask and get the shot.”
- The Federalist published an article, written by the president of Students for Life of America, proclaiming the vaccine mandates were proof “‘my body my choice’ was always a lie.” Instead, the author insisted, the more appropriate phrase in relation to abortion and COVID-19 is “my choice, your compliance.”
- Newsmax host Greg Kelly tweeted “MY BODY, MY CHOICE” and likened his choice of whether to eat candy or cereal for breakfast to his decision to get the “‘vaccine’” or not.
- Right-wing radio show host Dana Loesch appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight to speak out against vaccine mandates: “Everyone who has been screaming ‘my body, my choice’ all of these years, who has been speaking out for, in favor of, government mandated vaccines can all have a million seats right now, because this has all been a giant grift.”
- The Christian Broadcasting Network’s Brody Carter criticized President Joe Biden, saying he “effectively told hundreds of millions of women what to do with their bodies by implementing this vaccine mandate” even though the Democratic Party says it’s the “party of ‘my body, my choice.'”
- Washington Times columnist Tim Young tweeted that anyone in favor of vaccine mandates “forfeits” their ability to use the phrase “my body, my choice” in support of abortion access.
- Fox News host Maria Bartiromo appeared on America’s Newsroom and critiqued Vice President Kamala Harris, saying that “it’s really rich to hear Kamala Harris yesterday trashing the abortion law out of Texas, saying oh the government ... should not have a role in our bodies” while the Biden administration is “telling us we have to take the vaccine.”
- The anti-abortion website LifeNews.com tweeted that anyone defending vaccine mandates “can never use ‘my body, my choice’” in defense of abortion access.
- Conservative radio host Chris Salcedo and guest Fox News’ Bryan Preston discussed a perceived disconnect between “my body, my choice” when it came to abortion access versus vaccine mandates. Responding to a clip of Harris saying people's right to make decisions about their own bodies is “not negotiable” in reference to Texas SB 8, Salcedo said, “It’s not negotiable for women to make decisions about their own bodies unless we’re mandating you put a vaccine in your body, then sit down, shut up, and I don’t want to hear about you being a woman." Preston agreed with Salcedo, adding, “Yeah, then it’s not your body, it’s not your choice.”
- Benny Johnson, Newsmax host and Turning Point USA executive, accused White House press secretary Jen Psaki of running away as a reporter tried to ask her, “What happened to ‘my body, my choice’ when it comes to vaccinations in the Biden administration?” as Psaki was exiting a press briefing.
- During Fox News Primetime, Rachel Campos-Duffy used a satirical Babylon Bee article to criticize the Biden administration by trying to equate its opposition to Texas SB 8 to vaccine guidelines: “Just so we’re clear here, the government supports your right to choose unless it's your choice to be unvaccinated. The Babylon Bee summing it up with this tweet, ‘Joe Biden unveils your body, my choice vaccination program.’ Now, this is a phony headline, but the Babylon Bee is satire after all. But today, the joke doesn't seem funny because it feels so true.”
- The Washington Times published an op-ed questioning why “my body my choice” doesn’t apply to vaccines. According to the piece, COVID-19 is a political tool for “the Left” to “wield at their political opponents” in order to “scare the rebellious proletariat into submission and ultimately expand their governmental control.”
- Prominent conservative author Nick Adams tweeted, “My body, my choice!” and said it’s broadly about “freedom and our rights.”
- On Fox News' Unfiltered, host Dan Bongino and guest Dagen McDowell of Fox Business discussed vaccine mandates in the context of abortion access. Bongino commented, “We have the abortion side, they’re like ‘my body, my own,’ but yet when it comes to vaccine mandates, the left has the completely opposite approach. It’s like, can we just pick a principle and stick to it for once?” Later in the segment, McDowell tried to compare protecting others by getting vaccinated to protecting fetuses by preventing abortions: “Many people talk about ‘you could hurt others if you don’t get vaccinated.’ Well, I do know for a fact that if somebody has an abortion, they are hurting someone: a child.”