The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that COVID-19 vaccine mandates serve to advance civil liberties.
"In fact, far from compromising civil liberties, vaccine mandates actually further civil liberties," ACLU national legal director David Cole and director of the ACLU program on freedom of religion and belief Daniel Mach contend in their New York Times opinion piece. "They protect the most vulnerable among us, including people with disabilities and fragile immune systems, children too young to be vaccinated and communities of color hit hard by the disease."
The two men say that there should be exemptions for individuals with medical situations in which vaccination is contraindicated, but they argue that otherwise, steering clear of a deadly public health risk generally outweighs individual liberty and personal autonomy.
They say that "just to be clear, no one is proposing forcible injections or criminal penalties."
Here's more from the piece:
Vaccines are a justifiable intrusion on autonomy and bodily integrity. That may sound ominous, because we all have the fundamental right to bodily integrity and to make our own health care decisions. But these rights are not absolute. They do not include the right to inflict harm on others.
While vaccine mandates are not always permissible, they rarely run afoul of civil liberties when they involve highly infectious and devastating diseases like Covid-19. Although this disease is novel, vaccine mandates are not. Schools, health care facilities, the U.S. military and many other institutions have long required vaccination for contagious diseases like mumps and measles that pose far less risk than the coronavirus does today. (And just to be clear, no one is proposing forcible injections or criminal penalties.)
Cole and Mach also claim that the actual menace to civil liberties flows from states prohibiting vaccine and mask mandates, which they say "directly endanger the public health and make more deaths from the disease inevitable" and "trample the rights of the most vulnerable, who want to participate in society without putting their health at grave risk."
Unsurprisingly, many people on Twitter took issue the argument that vaccine mandates actually promote civil liberties.
"This is wrong. It's one thing to argue that vaccine mandates are a necessary infringement on civil liberties—that they outweigh the cost in terms of freedom lost. It's Orwellian to argue that they *enhance* civil liberties. They do not," Reason senior editor Robby Soave tweeted.
"You're a complete disgrace, ACLU. Just a trashy Marxist outfit pretending to care about people's rights as you work to destroy them," tweeted Kyle Becker.
"This is the most Orwellian thing I've seen in a long time," another person tweeted.
"The ACLU has really mastered doublespeak," another tweet declared.
"Congratulations, you've reached the apex of Orwellian doublespeak and gaslighting!" someone else declared.
A 2008 report prepared for the ACLU by several individuals states that "the right to refuse to be vaccinated should be honored. No one should be forced to be vaccinated against their will both because of the constitutional right to refuse treatment, and pragmatically because forced vaccination will deter at least some people from seeking medical help when they need it."
The report, titled "Pandemic Preparedness: The Need for a Public Health – Not a Law Enforcement/National Security – Approach," also says that "it is worth emphasizing to public officials that the Supreme Court has ruled that competent individuals have a right to refuse any medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment, and this includes vaccinations. Experimental vaccines can likewise always be refused, but once proven safe and effective, parents may have an obligation to have their children vaccinated, and governments have an obligation to make vaccine available to those in their custody, their workforce, and citizens unable to protect themselves," the report states.
"There will always be a new disease, always the threat of a new pandemic. If that fear justifies the suspension of liberties and the institution of an emergency state, then freedom and the rule of law will be permanently suspended," the report says.