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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

My body. My choice. Are we all talking about the same thing?

Supreme Court

By now you have all heard. In fact, the world has heard. The US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade. The constitutional right to abortion in the US no longer exists.

The landmark ruling from 1973 gave women the right to seek an abortion during the first two trimesters of their pregnancies. Now each individual state in America can pass its own laws either allowing or disallowing abortion. When all is said and done, almost half of the women of reproductive age in America will be affected by this new Supreme Court ruling. Many will not be able to travel out-of-state to get an abortion in a state where it is still allowed.

By now you have also heard about COVID-19. A novel respiratory virus which has killed over a million people in America. A disease for which there are efficacious vaccines that can prevent hospitalisation and death. When all is said and done, after more winter surges and new variants, this virus will kill millions more in America. Many will continue to disbelieve (or ignore) the science around vaccines.

Both of these health issues are more similar than we perhaps care to admit. They both involve the right to do with your body as you choose. They represent a fascinating convergence of this notion that ‘it’s my body and my choice’.

I don’t need to explain the ‘my body, my choice’ framework in the context of abortion or COVID-19 to anyone. Everyone knows what it means. You can agree or disagree. This is not my concern or my business. However, while speaking with and listening to people since the US Supreme Court’s decision was announced, reading thoughtful articles from both sides of the aisle and scrolling through plenty of social media posts about the ruling, I am confused.

If you are pro-life and you believe that human life begins at conception and – even in the most extreme cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother’s health – that no life should be aborted, I respect your view. But tell me this: if life is that sacred, why do you not believe that you should adhere to mask or vaccine mandates in places where there are vulnerable populations (schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc)? Is it okay to ‘abort’ the life of the elderly and expose them to a deadly virus? Because the data is unequivocal: the single greatest risk factor for severe outcomes with COVID-19 is age. Bar none.

Are you going to tell me that wearing a mask or getting a vaccine infringes on your personal freedom and that, given the choice between endangering the elderly and your personal freedom, you would choose to knowingly endanger the lives of others? Are you going to tell me that the callous disregard for human life that has been exhibited towards the vulnerable during this pandemic is okay or that ‘those lives’ are less worthy than the lives of the unborn foetuses in America? Are you going to tell me that the government can’t dictate what you do with/ to your body (ie, get a vaccine)? Then shouldn’t you also tell me that keeping a baby you don’t want to keep is dictating what someone does with/to their body. Right? Because if that’s what you’re telling me, then I’m really confused.

Or am I missing something obvious? Both situations involve protecting and speaking for the vulnerable, don’t they? You don’t want anyone telling you what to do with your body (wear a mask or get a needle in your arm), so how come it doesn’t go both ways? You want to protect the vulnerable, so how come it doesn’t go both ways? You want less government intrusion and overreach in your life, so why doesn’t it go both ways? If it’s ‘my body, my choice’, shouldn’t it go both ways?

Healthcare is complicated. It is probably more complicated than ever before. Since March 2020, the world has witnessed this first-hand. Dealing with a brand new disease that nobody had ever seen was complicated as we grasped to understand its aetiology, symptomology and natural course. Trying to implement public health measures while balancing the impact on personal freedom and the economy was complicated. Inventing, testing and manufacturing vaccines was (and continues to be) complicated. Dealing with variants and the array of unknowns that they have infused into the pandemic has been tremendously complicated.

But what really makes healthcare complicated is when we treat similar situations differently.

Rohit Khanna, MBA, MSc, MPH is the Managing Director of Catalytic Health, a leading healthcare communication, education & strategy agency. He can be reached at: or you can learn more about him at

Rohit Khanna, MBA, MSc, MPH is the Managing Director of Catalytic Health, a leading healthcare communication, education & strategy agency.

10th August 2022

From: Marketing


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