The slogan “my body, my choice,” used to discuss bodily autonomy and the right to choose whether to continue a pregnancy, was co-opted by vaccine skeptics and promoted at anti-lockdown protests across Australia over the weekend.
The slogan was used during the rally in Melbourne on Saturday, where thousands of people defied Covid-19 restrictions to protest lockdown measures. Posters bearing the slogan were seen at rallies across the country, including “freedom” marches in Brisbane and demonstrations in Mackay.
Meanwhile, the right-wing Australian Tea Party, whose Facebook Page is followed by more than 120,000 users, put forward a false dichotomy in an inflammatory post that asked, “[d]oes ‘my body my choice’ apply to masks and vaccines? Or just killing babies?” While Facebook Page Seeds of Awareness posted a meme that compared reactions to a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy with that of a man unwilling to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or wear a mask.
First Draft has previously identified how Covid-19 vaccine-skeptic communities have co-opted the term “my body, my choice” and often share it alongside misinformation about the coronavirus, vaccines and lockdown restrictions. The appropriation of “my body, my choice” by Covid-19 vaccine-hesitant communities highlights how well-known, relatable phrases are given new meaning and used to sow distrust about Covid-19 vaccines and rollouts. The appropriation of the term is not unlike the tactic of keyword squatting — creating online content around a specific search-engine-optimized term to affect search results for that term — and can potentially confuse public health messaging around vaccination campaigns as well as women’s health. — Esther Chan, Lucinda Beaman