What if Choice is a choice?

What if Choice is a choice?

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

~Benjamin Franklin

Choice.

What does that mean to you?

How much do you value it?

As a teen, it meant being able to choose my own clothes, my own friends. Makeup, parties, boyfriends. Whether to kiss or make out. When to go all the way.

My decisions didn’t always have the best outcomes. Blue eye-shadow—ugh! Gold wire-rimmed glasses—I’m really a silver gal. A few high school chums are still around; many I no longer know. The parties are a blur. The boyfriends…meh. One went to jail for something that isn’t even a crime today. Another is still here 47 years later.

But the freedom to choose, whether the decision was good or bad, was mine. All mine. Therefore, the results from those choices are mine as well.

This freedom to choose, to live my life, is what I reflect on now. Where are we as a society without the freedom to choose?

I try to imagine what my teen years would have been like if my mother had made my freedom conditional, “You can only go out with your friends, to the mall or dance if you are on The Pill.” Honestly, I probably would have jumped on that, “Sure, no problem.”

Today we know the potential long term effects of the pill—blood clots, stroke, heart attack—but back then we didn’t. And what I know about my body and how it responds, that decision as a teen would not have had good outcomes for me now.

What if my mother said that when I was 13?

What if when I was 18?

Does it make a difference?

When is a teen old enough to make their own health decisions? This is one of the questions I raise in my novel Breathing With Trees.

What if that decision is influenced by a person in authority, a teacher perhaps? When does it become coercion? Abuse? If there are conditions attached, is it free choice?

Now, what if it wasn’t my mother imposing the rule, but the government?

“All females from the time of first menstruation until their 21st birthday must be implanted with Essure.”

Essure was a metal coil device installed in the fallopian tubes. It was claimed to be a safe, long term, and pain-free form of birth control. Turned out it caused fibrosis and blockages, perforated uteri and frequently resulted in hysterectomy. But, hey, it did prevent pregnancy. Often permanently. (It was discontinued in the U.S. in 2019, two years after it had been discontinued in other countries.)

What if you couldn’t go anywhere without having the procedure? What if there was no liability to the manufacturer, because the government gave them a free pass?

Is it ever okay to let the government mandate our medical decisions through coercion?

What if everyone was forced/coerced/bribed to take Vioxx? Here’s a free lottery ticket if you take it. You can go to see John Legend, Blue Rodeo, or Skratch Bastid if you take it.

“Come on,” you say. “Vioxx is for arthritis, not everyone will get that.” You’re right. That’s my point. That’s probably a bad example though because Vioxx was pulled from the market after one-third of the people taking it died of heart attack. Let’s try another example…

What if Thalidomide was mandated to all pregnant women? It helps with morning sickness, acts as a sedative and, you know, we women are supposedly a hysterical bunch. But I guess that’s another bad example since it too was pulled from the market after causing birth defects.

Accutane, Baycol, Bextra, Cylert, Darvon, DES. Opioids. The list goes on. Supposedly “safe” drugs later pulled from market. How many side effects or deaths does it take before a drug is pulled? One? Fifteen? 13,627?

But I digress, because this isn’t about the drugs per se. (And it’s not NOT about the drugs, ya know what I’m saying?) It’s about tying our freedoms to drugs and medical treatment. Or else… That, my friends, is coercion. It nullifies free choice.

Free.

Choice.

Think about it. Please.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

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