News & Politics

CNN Op-Ed: You Don't Have a Constitutional Right to Refuse COVID Vaccine

Johanna Geron, Pool via AP

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech for use by Americans over the age of 12. This is very good news for those who want or need to get vaccinated.

But what about those who don’t wish to be jabbed? It doesn’t matter their reasons for refusing to get vaccinated. Frankly, it’s no one’s business. But surely somewhere in the Constitution of the United States it says people have the right to refuse to take a drug mandated by the government.

Right?

Not exactly. And according to a couple of blowhards writing on CNN.com, the government has the perfect right to compel you to receive the vaccine. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

The bioethicist, professor Arthur Caplan of New York University, has made a compelling case for the moral mandate to require vaccination. Appearing with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in a news briefing last month to address the city mandating vaccines for all municipal workers, he argued that the new policy “makes good, ethical and public health sense” and that “it will help all of us by keeping the COVID outbreak controlled.”

We agree, but also believe that the public needs to better understand that there is no constitutional right to avoid vaccine mandates against a deadly disease.

The two authors of the op-ed — Marci Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, and  Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and a professor of pediatrics — also believe that the state can vaccinate your child even if you are against it.

With respect to children, parents do not have carte blanche. At one time, children were the property of their fathers, but that is no longer the case. Children are “persons” under the Constitution, and as the ruling in Prince v. Massachusetts held, parents do not have a constitutional right to make martyrs of their children. Parents have an obligation to protect their children’s health and life, which means that the school district mandates that reduce the risk of death to children should be enforceable, period.

It’s appalling, and the tortured, circuitous logic they use to justify their extra-constitutional power grab is maddening. But what can we do? These are the “experts” who know what’s best for us, so we should listen and obey.

Well…usually.

For example, it is well-settled that governments can ban yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater, because such speech can lead to death as attendees race to the exits. True, the First Amendment’s Speech Clause protects the “freedom of speech,” but there is no requirement that the government can’t prevent scenarios likely leading to death.

The same reasoning applies to vaccine mandates. The Supreme Court explicitly upheld vaccine mandates against deadly diseases in Jacobson, where it explained: “the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand.” We live in a country of ordered liberty, not individual autonomy that paves the way to the deaths of others. In short, it is not the right of every American citizen to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection.

No, the “same reasoning” does not apply to vaccine mandates. In fact, the Supreme Court carves out exemptions for the mandates by writing that “such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations….” There is nothing “reasonable” about forcing all people to get vaccinated, including children being vaccinated against the wishes of their parents.

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If the mortality rate of COVID-19 cases was very high and was indiscriminately killing people — including children — the government still could not strap you to a gurney and give you the vaccine. This is a positively draconian and fascistic idea that places the government in a superior position over the individual when the Constitution says otherwise.

Perhaps the good doctors would feel more comfortable practicing in North Korea or some other enlightened dictatorship.