CNN Panel Thinks it is “Inconsistent” for “Small Government” Republicans to Ban Puberty Blockers for Minors & Oppose Vaccine Mandates – Here is What They Are Missing

March 6, 2023

Is it “inconsistent” to oppose vaccine mandates but support bans on puberty blockers for minors? According to the talking heads on CNN and political pundits on the Left it is. There is a lot of nuance to consider with these policies, but when we drill down to basic principle and consider the primary purposes of our government, we find both positions rooted in the same foundations. A recent segment on the show CNN Tonight provides an example that exposes the fallacious thinking that has led us away from wise, principled, Constitutional government, towards a more direct “ends justified the means” trivial style of governance.

Republican Tennessee Governor Bill Lee

Some media pundits and political commentators see an inherent hypocrisy regarding these two acts. As they see it, how can one oppose using government to force a vaccine, but support using government to ban puberty blockers for minors? Such a sentiment was highlighted on a recent segment of the show CNN Tonight, which included guests discussing the recent Tennessee bill to ban the gender identity interventions. On the show, Molly Jong-Fast from Vanity Fair states, “I also wonder, like, what happened to the Republican Party of smaller government? Right? Like, you know, I was hearing that governor (Governor Lee) say we’re not going to tell you to vaccinate your kids, but we are going to tell you that you can’t – you know, you can’t get them therapy – you know, this.” the show’s host Alysin Camerota quickly agrees adding, “Yeah. No, it is, I mean, it’s, the inconsistency is laid bare right there.”

Watch a clip of the conversation here.

Republicans are not anti-government anarchists

Any government coercion to force a behavior (or prohibit one) must be consistent with these points and not contradict them. This demands scrutiny of a given proposal to weigh the different interests and make a proper judgment one way or another. Choosing a biased starting point, (favoring either total freedom or the opposite approach of using strict force upon individuals) and seeking to skew policy in either direction no matter what the costs, is not warranted. It seems lost on these commenters that the opposite position (that most of them likely support) would commit the same error – government assumed to be empowered to force vaccines but somehow cannot be empowered to ban puberty blockers – would be equally “inconsistent.” Focusing on an “inconsistency” is not proper in itself however because the comparison is logically problematic.

Act in accord with nature and the fundamental inalienable human rights objectively derived from our nature as rational beings

The second problem with the panel members’ reasoning is that there is no consideration for an objectively-derived baseline. This makes their comparison invalid. Forcing or “nudging” compliance with a medical intervention like a vaccine mandate under threat of punishment is contrary to the natural state of an individual and their fundamental inalienable right to bodily/integrity autonomy. Consent must be given by the individual to initiate a medical intervention and coercion against such informed consent is inherently immoral. There is a difference regarding puberty blockers, surgeries, and other medical procedures intending to affirm one’s “gender identity. These are elective acts contrary to one’s natural state. They are willful, direct acts to alter an individual’s natural physical disposition. Policy allowing for, or encouraging, these procedures are the direct opposite of policy such as an anti-vaccine mandate law that seeks to protect one’s natural state and freedom of choice from unjust coercion.

A position that government ought to both protect individuals from vaccine mandates and prohibit puberty blockers/”gender affirming” surgeries for minors is consistent regarding the maintenance of a “first, do no harm” natural disposition of individuals, which is in itself consistent with the primary duty of government. Both policies are attempting to secure natural right and well-being from outside interference, albeit in different ways. Of course, at this point we must consider the free will and bodily autonomy rights of the individual to choose to “change” their gender and undergo these medical procedures as they see fit. After all, they do not directly risk harm to anyone other than the individual, right? And it is not always the government’s business to prohibit the behavior of rational individuals just because some other segment of the community deems it undesirable or dangerous, right? This is true, but it must also be recognized there is an important distinction between adults and minors to consider as well, bringing us to the next point.

Distinction between adults and minors

The third problem with the argument that Governor Lee’s positions are “inconsistent” is that vaccine mandates impact all citizens, and all normal activity within society related to our laws regarding civil rights and public accomodation, whereas the bans on puberty blockers/”gender affirming” surgeries are for minors only. Logic dictates, and our long history affirms, there is a distinction between laws/rules/procedures/expectations for minors, and that of adults. Minors are recognized as not being completely at the age of reason, therefore their parents, society, and the state, treat them differently than adults who have equal station and equal say in public decision-making and more freedom of choice to give informed consent towards important personal matters. Minors need more protecting and therefore more state intervention is warranted to prohibit certain behaviors regarding their care and upbringing. Now, one may recognize this point but also make an argument that decisions regarding the care and health of minors ought to be left to the parents/guardians of the minors in question, not the state, including for the administration of “gender affirming care.” There is certainly a good argument to be made for this point, as we also have a long history of recognizing the supremacy of parental rights in most important matters (with some logical consideration for the duty of states to protect the fundamental rights and well being of children in certain circumstances too). But for our purposes here, it is sufficient to point out that there is no “inconsistency” between supporting the freedom of choice for all regarding the decision whether or not to take a vaccine, and supporting bans on potentially irreversible and harmful medical interventions for minors only. After all, adults that may seek hormone alterations or gender-related surgeries are not impacted by the bill in question.

The middle ground between freedom to choose and government duty to protect

The questionable validity and worth of “gender affirming care” is not as relevant to this discussion as is its position as an act contrary to natural physical development. Unlike the vaccine situation, the act of administering the “gender affirming care” is itself the risky action contrary to the natural default. It also requires the assistance of third parties to administer. This places it at least somewhat within the regulatory realm. Given its potential for harm, a state has some duty to set policy regarding its implementation in order to protect the long-term interests of the impacted children. If a state chooses to implement such an age-dependent ban, when the child reaches the age of consent (adulthood) they can then choose whether or not to undergo such medical procedures. Banning them outright for all ages would be a different argument on this point. In general, a state has an interest in protecting minors from long-term physical harm from outside influences that hinder or alter natural physical development.

Seeking an all-powerful government that imposes its will on everyone is undesirable, as is a weak, unprincipled government that allows powerful factions and criminal elements within society to do the same. We ought to seek to restore Constitutional, limited government based on rational natural law principles – powerful enough to maintain order and protect fundamental rights, limited in scope within a Federalist structure allowing for responsible liberty and maximum local control over everything which does not present a danger to fundamental rights or cause disorder.

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