Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Absurdity Friday May 6, 2005, 9 comments

At what point do the religious freedoms of one individual trump the fundamental right to life for another?

You could seriously paint me stunned while watching the news last night. It turns out that a strange and frightening epidemic has struck southwestern Ontario. Rubella, a disease for which we’ve had a vaccine for decades, is striking children ill in a small community.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) it turns out that a sect of christian fundamentalists (the Dutch Reformed Church) believe that vaccination is wrong, and haven’t vaccinated their children. In Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, vaccination is required of all children attending school, but there’s some weird exemption I haven’t figured out yet.

It may be argued that the right to choose whether or not someone is vaccinated is a matter of religious choice, and therefore it is outside the jurisdiction of the government to force it.

I agree completely that the right to choose vaccination is inalienable, but what troubles me here is that in this case the choice is endangering unborn children (which the Dutch Reformed Church believe are alive and human, to forestall the pro-choice/pro-life arguments) throughout the region of the outbreak.

Rubella causes miscarriages in many cases. In other cases where miscarriages don’t occur, it can cause birth defects such as deafness, blindness, mental retardation and heart abnormalities, among others.

The people who have chosen not to vaccinate their children have now exposed the pregnant women and unborn children of the community to severe danger. Their religious choices are directly responsible for the deaths of any infant that miscarries (if we proscribe to the pro-life argument) and significant mental, physical and emotional stress to the pregnant women now threatened with miscarriage or babies with birth defects.

Read that again.

A religious choice is causing miscarriages and birth defects. But not just in the group making the choice. It is causing miscarriages and birth defects in people who choose vaccination.

This is like some religious sect deciding that women aren’t people and running around raping other mens wives. Or deciding that child porn is acceptable and luring and photographing other people’s children. But it’s okay, right? It’s a religious thing.

That’s crap. Sure, people should be allowed to choose not to vaccinate their children. But they should not be allowed to freely endanger the future health (or just plain future) of unborn babies.

The more I am exposed to the thinking of religious fundamentalism (be it Islamic, Jewish, Christian, whatever) the more frightened I am of it. In this case, we see christian fundamentalism which takes a strong pro-life stance on abortion while at the same time knowingly and willingly endangering the lives of unborn children.

Extremism, in any form, is a negative thing, and it’s troubling to see the world polarizing itself, retreating from accountability and responsibility to the dark and frightening corners of fundamentalism.


caerulea Friday May 6, 2005

Extremism is frightening. Especially when it’s under the guise of “religious freedom”.
Sad thing is, one family that attends that church has several stalls set up at several markets throughout southwestern Ontario, selling produce to an unsuspecting public.
THAT’S even more frightening.

Thomas Friday May 6, 2005

Drat! I hate it when you make me think! ;)

So… We should then make sure no one smokes (any type of cigarette, cigar, pipe, marijuana … ever … because second hand smoke (using one of your words) “rapes” me of my health every time I breathe it in …

Vaccination, no matter if you view it in religious terms or in medical terms, is controversial. If you look at the reseach, there’s plenty of arguments (medically founded) against vaccination – just as there is FOR vaccination. This isn’t just a “Freedom of Religion” issue.

Now, there are a number of questions to be asked… 1. where did the Rubella stem from? The unvaccinated child just didn’t magically appear with it… It had to come from somewhere – or someone… 2. Are there large cases of miscarriages? You state that there is now a “severe danger” and then you state their choice “is causing”.. Which is it? Is there a danger of an epidemic or IS there an epidemic? 3. Is the danger to the women who aren’t vaccinated or to any (vaccinated or not)? Is a mother who is vaccinated less susceptible to Rubella? Is it just the women of the “religious sect” who will be at risk?

While I understand your concern, what we don’t need is hysteria … like the media often will enjoy creating. We need facts and reliable information – not stating that something “is happening”, when in truth it “may happen”. What can one do to help prevent contracting Rubella? Are those infected being quarantined?

Your statement “I agree completely that the right to choose vaccination is inalienable” pretty much sums up the whole matter … They have a right to choose… Just like those smokers I disdain have a right to choose … Unfortunately(?) we live in a world where those we do not agree with on lifestyle (drinking, smoking, taking medication, etc.) may be the ones who, through their freedoms, injure or kill us. What freedoms are you willing take away next to prevent any futher loss of life?

Jorge Friday May 6, 2005

Rubella sounds like the name of a maid.

This topic is too serious for me.
I thought I would lighten it up.

And now everyone will hate me.

Adrian Friday May 6, 2005

Good points Thomas. Allow me to answer a few of your questions:

1: The way I undestand it, Rubella is freely transmitted between those not vaccinated. Rubella outbreaks occur every 6-9 years among unvaccinated. As to the initial source of the outbreak, who knows. It’s not a “dead” disease, by any means.

2: The medical chief of the region is quoted as saying “I think it’s prudent to emphasize the ongoing risk. Let’s not sugarcoat . . . the potential consequences.” (Source).
It’s signficant. There are at least 7 confirmed exposures of pregnant women. Hopefully nothing will come of it, but that’s unlikely. The risk is serious.

3: The risk is to ALL pregnant women. It’s not the woman who is in danger, it’s the fetus. So, it’s not just those in the religious group at risk, but the public at large.

I am concerned. I agree that the media has a way of painting things in the most dire light, but in this case, people who do not agree with the choice the religious group is making are having their rights trod on, and the unborn children put at serious risk of damage or death.

And finally…

Second hand smoke. Smoking is illegal in all enclosed public spaces in Ontario, Thomas. Because it “rapes” others of their health.

Adrian Friday May 6, 2005

“What freedoms are you willing take away next to prevent any futher loss of life?”

I missed that one.

I am happy to support the right to choice on vaccination.

That choice should come with the knowledge of potential quarantine, or at the very least, a requirement to wear a sign warning people of the dangers an unvaccinated person may present to pregnant women and their unborn children.

Freedom of choice does not mean freedom from consequence.

iWorks Friday May 6, 2005

accountability and responsibility

Evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.

Who will hold them accountable and responsible for their decision against vaccination?


iWorks Friday May 6, 2005

...Where are the women, the mothers of these endangered children speaking up against this decision? Have they too been silenced by the veil of religious belief?

Thomas Friday May 6, 2005

Thanks for the points of clarification, Adiran… I really hope the Rubella is contained quickly and no still-births come from the contact. Keep us updated…

Of “enclosed public places”, Quarantine, and warning signs ...

What about un-enclosed public spaces? What about enclosed non-public spaces?... You gotta understand … I really hate smoking … Both my parents smoked when I was growing up … I was around the second hand smoke in an enclosed area for most of my life (our house)... What about the kids who came over to our house? My parents are now responsible for the possibility of increasing their risk for cancer…

Maybe we should quarantine smokers until they die from smoking… This will help the rest of us who do not wish to breath in the smoke – whether on a Bus, in a park, in an eating establishment, walking on the sidewalk, sitting in a car, or in someone’s house.

Maybe there needs to be a sign (a scarlet letter) on houses whose occupents smoke – WARNING: entry may cause cancer, brain damage, stunted growth, or … Hey “Freedom of choice does not mean freedome from consequence.” Right?

Adrian Friday May 6, 2005

Exactly Thomas.

Freedom of choice does NOT mean freedom from consequence.

Something more people in North America need to grasp.

Commenting has ended for this post, but I'd still love to hear from you.

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