This is an analysis of a speech/article presented by Barbara Low Fisher, this is an essay I have written for assessment and it touches on the topics of freedom and vaccines both topics which I believe relate to my blog. The original article can be accessed here.
The article ‘Vaccine Freedom of Choice’ by Barbara Low Fisher discusses mandatory vaccinations and how they impose on the freedoms of parents. By starting with an overview of Fisher’s article, analysing her concepts, and exploring an alternative argument it is clear that Fisher has a strong opinion about forced vaccinations backed by harsh language and personal anecdotes, however, she fails to consider both positive and negative freedoms, and doesn’t list any actual facts or statistics. Therefore due to this analysis, it is clear that forced vaccinations do impose on the negative freedom of parents but in contrast, allow for the positive freedom of their children.
Vaccine Freedom of Choice is an article that uses strong first-person language, personal anecdotes, invokes emotion and paints health professionals in a negative light. Fisher relates to audience by using first person language such as “among US parents,” “If WE cannot be free,” and “WE believe in liberty” as a few examples to connect with the reader on a personal level; she is drawing the connection with parents and people that can relate to this topic. She uses a personal anecdote about her own son Chris to further this connection with the reader and as a form of evidence as to why she has her opinions against mandatory vaccinations beyond its impact on freedom. Conversely, this can be noted as bias as it is emotional. This leads to the next use of language and topic of discussion – emotion. Fisher quotes an inscription at the Holocaust Museum in Washington that says “The first to perish were the children” this quote draws emotion and it represents a very dark time in history. Furthermore, she makes statements like “vaccine roulette with a child’s life” which would invoke emotion from any parent. In addition, she paints health professionals in a negative light by telling the reader that babies are dying due to health officials calling for more mandatory vaccinations, and that any deaths that are caused by vaccinations are simply “acceptable loses” to health professionals. Regardless, all of these techniques convey Fisher’s concept of why mandatory vaccinations are bad and how they impose on negative freedom and more specifically the “free(dom) to make informed, voluntary decisions.”
Fisher is successful in explaining why she believes vaccines impose on negative freedom. It is stated throughout this article that mandatory vaccinations impose on freedom, more specifically they impose on negative freedom. Therefore, it is important to understand what negative freedom means. By definition negative freedom as the absence of external constraints or restrictions on an individual which allows them freedom of choice. (Heywood, 2017: 30) Fisher uses the phrases ‘legal right’ and ‘legally forced’ when describing vaccination decisions and mandatory vaccinations respectfully; this has direct links to the basic level of negative freedom as it demonstrates restrictions put on individuals and their freedom of choice being taken away. Furthermore, Fisher extends on this idea when she says “If we cannot be free to make informed, voluntary decisions… then we are not free in any sense of the word,” discussing the direct link between decisions about vaccines and the freedom of individuals. She also continues to extend on this when she declares “There will be no limit on which individual freedoms the state can take away” ultimately insisting that she believes that if mandatory vaccinations are enforced, then all individual rights could be taken away as well. Fisher clearly has an in-depth understanding of negative freedom, or at least the freedom of choice and strongly believes that mandatory vaccinations impose on an individual’s freedom to choose. However with all of this in mind, she does fail to acknowledge the child’s right to health, and their positive freedom to be their best selves.
Due to Fisher failing to acknowledge a child’s positive freedom it is important to understand what positive freedom is. Positive freedom is the development of human capacities, self-realisation or self-mastery. (Heywood, 2017: 30) Ultimately in its simplest form, it is the freedom to do things and be the best person an individual can be. So with this in mind, when children are prevented from getting vaccinated due to parents personal beliefs their positive freedoms are imposed upon. This is because they will be prevented from attending schools and day care facilities as mentioned by Fisher. Furthermore, these children could become dangerously ill from preventable deadly diseases such as whooping cough, measles, and polio; and ultimately they could die from something that is preventable. This is a huge disadvantage to any child and it is quite easy to see that children cannot be their best selves if they are permanently disabled, uneducated or dead. It is also important to consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which demonstrates that people need to satisfy their lower order biogenic needs like hunger and health before their higher order psychogenic needs like creative arts and self-actualisation. (Elliott, et al., 2012) Fisher doesn’t consider that children will not have access opportunities if they aren’t vaccinated and fails to ultimately see the bigger picture of positive AND negative freedom.
It is clear that mandatory vaccinations do affect the negative freedom of parents but subsequently protect the positive freedom of their children. Through the article ‘Vaccine Freedom of Choice’ it is evident that Fisher believes mandatory vaccinations impose on freedom, and it can be proven that they do impose on a parent’s negative freedom, as it does not allow them to make the decision. However, she fails to see how vaccines protect children’s positive freedom and help them to become their best selves. She doesn’t acknowledge that if parents are allowed to prevent their children from getting vaccinations it imposes on the child’s positive freedom. Fisher is entitled to her opinion, and so is everyone that may have an alternative view, but the concept of freedom is so broad and ultimately it comes down to a decision of what is more important; whether it be the negative freedom of parents and their decisions over their children, or the positive freedom of the children and their opportunity to live their best lives
Elliott, G., Rundle-Thiele, S. & Waller, D., 2012. Marketing. 2nd ed. Milton: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
Heywood, A., 2017. Political Ideologies. 6th ed. London: Palgrave.