• Susannah Colt


I attended the Rally for Abortion Justice on October 2nd in Lancaster, NH, where the temperature hovered around 50 degrees and the rain fell steadily throughout the rally and hour-long march up and down Main Street. The hardy (or as I like to call them “hearty”) men and women in their many layers under rain gear were not deterred, coming out in force, numbering around 100 strong.

Nowadays when I find myself in a crowd of people, I take note of how many are wearing masks. Even though the event was outdoors, I noticed nearly all of the attendees wore masks. This was comforting to me, but not surprising. Not only does Lancaster have one of the highest percentages of vaccinated people in the state (84%), but they are also mindful of the science and reality of the continuing virus’s dangers with its mutating strains.

Of course, there are always outliers in any situation and, because people were holding signs that echoed their opinions, I noticed at least one person that seemed to have a contradictory opinion of the science around masks and vaccinations. This person’s sign read “Keep your laws (and “mandates”) off my body.” I approached her and asked her what “mandates” she was concerned about and she said, “Vaccinations.” I knew that the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers were co-opting the slogan “Our Body, Our Choice,” so I was on the lookout and not surprised to find one.

Laws and mandates are created to address public concerns and problems. It is an ever evolving process, changing with the times and the advancement of society, including technological and scientific advances. Drunk driving was not a problem until the automobile was invented. Texting and driving did not exist as a crime until cellphones were invented.

I’m not going to go into the long history of abortion laws, except to say that abortion of a non-viable fetus has been legal since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Prior to that, women were dying from botched and back alley abortions so Roe v. Wade reversed that trend and saved countless lives.

The forces that continue to oppose abortion want people to believe that life begins at conception, which is not supported by science or even logic. They argue that when a woman chooses an abortion they are affecting the “life” of another person. However, for decades the “pro-life” advocates have failed to support their arguments with clear science, so they have typically lost in court. Their new tactic is to whittle away at the courts, inserting pro-life judges onto the federal bench until they now have a solid majority of conservative-leaning Supreme Court justices whom they hope will finally reverse Roe v. Wade. Sadly they may succeed, which will mean women will be forced back to the dark ages to make one of the most difficult choices they ever have to make, putting their lives at risk for a choice that should belong to them alone. That is why we are rallying and raising a hue and cry to try to keep that from happening.

The anti-vaxxers and anti-masker want us to believe that their choice is just as constitutionally protected as a woman’s right to choose an abortion. They feel as though their body is sacred and no-one should force them to get a shot or wear a mask. Their argument has some merit, especially if we are to acknowledge that everyone should be able to make their own health choices. For instance, people have every right to turn down medical intervention like cancer treatments or life-saving resuscitation. They can sign Do Not Resuscitate orders and the medical professionals have to respect their choice, as long as it can be proven that the person was competent when they made that choice. But that choice only affects the person making it, which is why it is sacrosanct.

I decided to talk with other marchers about their thoughts on the choice issue as it relates to vaccines and one woman had a visceral reaction, growing quite angry about the issue, because she had recently lost her godparent, whom she was named after, to COVID. The godparent was on the transplant list for a new liver due to non-alcohol related cirrhosis. Because of her health complications, she could not be vaccinated. She managed to get through the first waves of COVID, but when Delta came to her neighborhood she caught it from a person who refused to be vaccinated. To add insult to injury, when she became sick enough to require hospitalization, the hospital was forced to make a Hobson’s choice – because the hospital was overwhelmed with cases and short on ventilators, a healthier person was put on the life-saving device. Not only was she a casualty of an anti-vaxxer but also healthcare limitations due of the crush of anti-vaccinated people filling the beds in the hospital.

When anti-vaxxers argue that their choice is personal and does not affect anyone else, they are deluding themselves and causing mayhem and death all around them. They cannot turn the pro-choice abortion slogan onto its head to their advantage. Their choice has consequences, just as much as the person who drinks too much and gets behind the wheel of a car, killing someone as a result, or someone who texts and drives and ends up killing someone. Those drivers will be charged with a crime and likely spend time in jail for their bad choice. Perhaps the anti-vaxxers should be similarly charged and held accountable.

The bottom line is evidence has proven that vaccines work. Of the 100,000 deaths in the last three and a half months, the vast majority were unvaccinated. Choosing or refusing to be vaccinated is like gambling with your life, but more importantly it is gambling with the lives of people around you, especially the most vulnerable. Maybe it is time to co-opt someone else’s slogan, “lock them up” together, and see who comes out alive.

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