You may have noticed in the righthand side bar of your social media account(s) news items informing you that President Biden’s vaccine mandate enjoys legal precedent. There is a US Supreme Court decision upholding a state law for compulsory vaccination for small pox, a disease that kills a third of those it infects and is even deadlier for children. The Supreme Court case is Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905). I write about it here: The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the fallopian tubes.
What is left out of the story is what that precedent has since justified, most notoriously Buck v. Bell (1927), a decision that upheld the power of states to forcibly sterilize United States citizens for all manner of “ills.” Tens of thousands of Americans were sterilized without their consent. But that’s not the only decision that used Jacobson to justify oppressive state action. In Vernonia School District v. Acton (1995), the court used Jacobson to justify the random drug testing of students. More recently, the Jacobson precedent has been cited as a precedent in rulings concerning face masks and home confinement orders. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a court extended Jacobson to cover matters of reproductive liberty. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit leaned on Jacobson to uphold a Texas ban on non-essential medical services and surgeries that included abortions.
Remember that racial segregation in the United States rested on precedent. The personhood enjoyed by corporations rests on precedent. Citing precedent and then moving on, as if law is ever finally settled or uniform in character, is lazy thinking. It’s a way to avoid mounting an argument to justify policy—in this case a policy that strikes at the very core of liberty. What matters is not bad court decisions but fundamental human rights, and none are more central to freedom than personal autonomy, embodied in the right to refuse to take a pharmaceutical agent or undergo surgery. It’s your body. You can refuse medical treatment. It’s your decision in a free society.
Vaccination does not treat disease. The COVID-19 vaccines don’t even confer immunity (see The Official Vaccine Narrative Completely Falls Apart). SARS-CoV-2 is not an unusually pathological disease. Coronavirus is not small pox. Sterilization programs were also not for the treatment for disease. As do vaccine advocates, sterilization advocates claimed the practice prevented diseases, social diseases such as alcoholism, criminality, mental retardation, and physical deformity. These interventions—sterilization and vaccines—are not for the sake of the persons targets by the mandate. Sterilization and vaccines are part of the logic of extreme social engineering. It’s not about public health. It’s about power and control. And, in the case of vaccines, it’s about profits.
Jacobson is the legal precedent for both. Buck v. Bell has never been overturned.