– What we can learn from Abortion and Covid-19
By Dr Ryan Corbin
While we continue to battle Covid-19 as a human race, the western news has been lately filled with the abortion debate raging in the United States.
From these experiences, we can observe some similarities between arguably the two polar members of society: the liberals and the conservatives.
To battle the pandemic, our scientific colleagues developed vaccines which were critical in minimising the risk of severe disease and death. However, this development was met with resistance from conservatives who did not trust the science behind these vaccines and through an attempt at bodily autonomy, they refused vaccination with the slogan “my body, my choice”.
Conversely, with the preemptive release of the US Supreme Court opinion on the overturning of Roe v Wade, i.e., the constitutional “right” to an abortion, the liberal camp has been actively campaigning with the slogan “my body, my choice” to show that women’s reproductive rights are superior to that of the unborn right to life and once again, bodily autonomy is of utmost importance.
We have two social issues where the opposing sides of the arguments use the same slogan. Is this an indication that this philosophical model might be too morally simple and actually be inaccurate? Is bodily autonomy the sole principle within its own bubble which can be used to navigate these social issues?
Autonomy is a valuable pillar which one relies upon to make moral decisions. However, as critical as autonomy is, when elevated and used in isolation within its own bubble it can lead to immoral decisions.
When an individual is faced with a moral decision, there are many principles/factors which are involved and utilised with the aim of the objective good.
In the case of the Covid-19 vaccines, while personal autonomy is a key aspect of the moral dilemma, this must be responsibly weighed against the common good.
From the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith’s note on the morality of using the Covid-19 vaccines; “the morality of vaccination depends not only on the duty to protect one’s own health, but also on the duty to pursue the common good. In the absence of other means to stop or even prevent the epidemic, the common good may recommend vaccination, especially to protect the weakest and most exposed.” 1
What is key to note here is that the Church has reminded us that the common (collective) good of all involved and not only individual “good” needs to be considered when weighing the morality of a decision.
It is in the quest of protecting the community at large, especially our vulnerable, that the importance of vaccination is stressed though not mandated. Hence one’s desires of saving the body from perceived insult/injury with the vaccine should be weighed with the higher potential benefit of increased protection not only for your immediate family but also your neighbour.
We as a human race do not live in isolation but as a community. This balance of consideration of all the potential parties involved and the implications one’s actions can have is in essence the scale by which morality is governed and balanced achieved.
The philosophical atmosphere of today’s society hinges heavily on individualism, i.e., where the direct impact on the self is the most critical element in any scenario.
This structure has led to the pro-abortion promotion of “my body, my choice”. The focus on the discussion is on the effects to the mother (reproductive rights) with little mention to the unborn (basic human rights).
Society has decided to clash the mother and foetus; strong vs weak, loud vs voiceless. To further cement this, the unborn child has been relegated to a status below that of a human being. This foetus which has a unique genetic code, who is of the human species is deemed not worthy of protection under “human rights” and therefore cannot influence the moral decision.
Bodily autonomy then has been promoted/elevated for one and not the other, being used as the sole consideration within its own bubble.
What can we learn therefore from Covid-19 and abortion? If two opposing ideologies can use the same principle for differing purposes, does this imply the principle is inaccurate? Should common good be sacrificed for personal gain? Is more introspection necessary to guide public policy?
The Church has always challenged society to ponder its decisions, to consider all those implicated, especially the vulnerable; the old, the young and even the unborn.
The Church wishes all are given the opportunity to experience full freedom and life, not the select few. Is the Church blameless? The answer is ‘No’, but She has been one of the pivotal leaders promoting collective human rights in the western world.
Abortion is not a religious argument, but a human rights argument and the Church is fighting against this social injustice.
If we listen to Her and burst the bubble on the individualistic ideology adopted by society, we as a people will move from doing not what is easy, but dare I say, what is truly and objectively right.
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