I Guess Consistency IS The Hobgoblin Of Little Minds…

Surprise! Indiana’s pathetic Attorney General evidently has come around to a view long expressed by civil libertarians and Planned Parenthood.

Rokita has joined members of the General Assembly in defending citizens’ right to control their own bodies. According to multiple media sources, he has issued a (non-binding) opinion in support of that position, which was admirably articulated by Martinsville Representative Peggy Mayfield:

Hoosiers should have the right to make healthcare decisions that best suit their families, their personal medical circumstances, and a broad interpretation of their religious beliefs – a concept that we’re disappointed to see Indiana University has rejected.”

The genesis of this remarkable turnaround–not just by our desperate-for-attention AG, but from a number of firmly anti-choice legislators–was Indiana University’s decision to require students and employees to be vaccinated in order to return to in-person instruction. In an opinion that most lawyers–and several members of the General Assembly–described as “a reach,” Rokita is claiming that a  bill passed during the last legislative session prohibits the University from doing so.

I will leave the legal arguments to practicing lawyers (noting only that IU is advised by some pretty excellent legal experts and that I have never heard Rokita described as a particularly skilled lawyer) , but I can’t restrain myself from focusing on the unbelievable hypocrisy displayed by that quoted position and Rokita’s pious support for the “fundamental liberties” protected by the Bill of Rights.

The statement that Hoosiers should have the right to make healthcare decisions that best suit their families and religious beliefs is, without a doubt, correct. It is precisely the point of the pro-choice position, which I will note is not a “pro-abortion” position. The issue is not what decision is made–it is who has the authority to make it.

In both cases–pregnancy termination and vaccination–the decision should rest with the individual involved.

That does not mean that institutions like IU cannot act to protect the lives and health of their students and employees; it means that individuals who choose not to be vaccinated and who do not fall within permitted exceptions to IU’s policy may choose not to attend–just as women who make a personal medical choice inconsistent with the teachings of a particular religious institution may find themselves unwelcome there.

In neither case should state or federal government agencies or legislative bodies get involved. They certainly may not make those decisions for those individuals.

What is particularly ludicrous about this sudden concern for an individual’s right to control of his or her own body– coming as it does from rabidly “pro life” folks– is that it is so inconsistent with their willingness to trample those same constitutional protections in order to appeal to constituencies displaying absolutely no regard for the protection of personal autonomy.

Ironically, Indiana University’s decision to require vaccinations is self-evidently a “pro life” decision. The University is following the science and acting to protect the life and health of the University community. (Of course, the people they are protecting have already been born, which evidently makes a difference…)

When Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines,” the point he was making was that only small-minded people refuse to rethink their prior beliefs.

Perhaps Indiana’s Attorney General isn’t as small-minded as he has seemed? Perhaps he is re-evaluating and rethinking his belief that government should get to decide what  citizens–including female citizens– can do with their bodies?

Or, on the other hand, perhaps he is simply too dim to recognize the inconsistency of the various positions he chooses to take in the course of his constant political pandering.


  1. Rokita also has joined 20 other State AGs in asking the Biden administration – he avoided saying “President Biden” – to reconsider Federal policy in regard to teaching Critical Race Theory.” The Indiana AG does not set policy for Indiana, despite Rokita’s implicit belief that he bears such weight, but this is another aspect of (1) his not-too-subtle run at a higher office (and Todd Young might be aware of this); and (2) his disregard for actual history (racism was built-in to The Constitution and has been a part of our system ever since) and academic freedom. I blogged about his stand on CRT last evening (civildiscoursenow). Indiana has put together a string of AGs who are embarrassments to – well, a lot of things, but especially the Indiana Constitution.

  2. When Todd Rokita speaks he never fails to lower the level of intelligence in the room…
    If he had a few more brains he could be a half-wit…

  3. That may be his current stance, Sheila, but I believe he took at least two other stances before his reactions to IU policies became known. He flip-flopped at least three times.

    I assume that once he is told his current stance obliterates the “conservatives” argument against abortion, he will flop again in another direction.

    Now that we’ve reached 40% vaccinated in Indiana, which isn’t enough to protect the spread of COVID, the selfish and closed-minded peeps have put us in quite a predicament. They refuse to be jabbed and refuse to be asked for vaccination cards.

    Can public places refuse them? I mean, what’s the next step?

    These lawmakers offering carrots to get people vaccinated are cracking me up.

    So, can public health officials state if you don’t have proof of vaccination, then you aren’t allowed to enter x, y, and z?

    Not to mention we now have the same populace proving their own hypocrisy about wanting to stop women from having abortions. The irony is not lost on many of us, and I’m afraid as we move forward, this will only increase because the US has become the epicenter of hypocrisy as it grasps for its deteriorating hegemony across the globe.

  4. Prof K says
    “Or, on the other hand, perhaps he is simply too dim…. ”
    I vote for that

  5. In an essay titled “The Ideology of Isolation, Rebecca Solnit pointed out that when relationships between things and ideas mean nothing to you, words, and therefore truth, can mean whatever you choose. Consistency is not a characteristic of modern Conservatives, because they are not strongly attached to reality.

    Her essay is in a collection titled “Call Them By Their True Names.”

  6. On the one hand we’re talking “citizens” and on the other we’re talking “women.” I’m sure Rokita would describe himself as an “Originalist,” which makes the meaning of citizen “propertied white male,” a dream come true for the right wing.

  7. Seventy five years ago we had to be vaccinated for small pox or could not attend public grade school in Indiana(I had my pox scar already). Purdue & IU in 1955 required small pox vaccinations. The US military required small pox vaccinations until ??. No excuses from so-called unique religious groups/political extremists/so on. IT was for the public welfare and now small pox is a disease in the past. As an older teen, remember (as does Sheila) waiting in line for polio vaccine. Don’t remember pseudo fears of ‘whatever’ horrific monster attack. We feared crippling disease more than a vaccine-that and the Indy Star photos of rows of child filled iron lungs in Riley Hospital. Today a vaccine that reduces/eliminates hospitalizations and deaths of the elderly has become a political issue. Yes, very limited risks exist as the small pox and Salk vaccines also had risks. My wife and one of her best friends were together for the first time in 15 months-they believe in the vaccines. As we lost 2 church friends from Covid, the vaccine is necessary.

  8. As with other manufactured “issues” by Trump Republicans who have no platform or set of guiding principles to guide them, they have managed to politicize disease, i.e., to give it the same attention they would in raising taxes, as though it were a public issue where there are two sides to the “issue.” There are not two sides. Polio and smallpox are what they are, horrid diseases, and not what politicians make them out to be, i.e., arguable and somehow due to political fault.

    So what’s next? Water isn’t wet? Or it runs uphill? Gravity is a liberal mirage? All because such escapes from reality fit a political purpose? Why is abortion a political “issue” when it is plainly a kitchen table issue pure and simple? We are having the wrong argument on this manufactured “issue” and many others Republicans have managed to throw into the political maw, and all while the real issue(s) remain untreated. It’s a framing and not a genuine issue context we have allowed to fester because we are not on the same page and cannot therefore have a genuine debate on the real rather than the manufactured issues of the day. Until we can agree on what we are in fact disagreeing on rather than political framing of the fray, it’s a waste of time to give any credence to the Rokitas of this world.

  9. Fortunately, the Know Nothings are going out of their way to announce and re-announce their presence. When the hallowed day arrives on which we are mandated to protect them from themselves, we’ll have no trouble rounding them up.

    What they fail to recognize is that when they casually change their minds in a “change-your-mind-and-select -your-facts-at will” environment, they will eventually flip at the wrong time into the wrong position and offend a higher-up who punishes their type severely. Jeff Sessions can offer some relevant thoughts on this danger.

  10. Excellent post, as usual, Sheila, but setting all of that aside, does it occur to Rokita that a University like I.U. has students that attend in-person classes from all over the world–like India and China, for example? Regardless of the personal autonomy aspect, I.U. would be negligent for failing to take all reasonable measures to prevent a foreseeable outbreak of COVID, which is not under control in other countries. And…I.U. can’t pick and choose who could or should be vaccinated. Consistency is critical. Testing is not as effective a measure for control as vaccination.

  11. This argument that requiring vaccines is an assault on individual liberties is proof that our society is too individualistic. We need to extend ourselves at times for the greater good. No one griped when the TSA was set up to ensure commercial flights were not used as weapons by terrorists. I don’t see any difference in principle with the vaccines. It’s just instead of preventing terrorist attacks we are preventing COVID-19 infections. Rokita is obviously not a supporter of public health strategies that keep its citizens healthy and safe from a potentially lethal infection.

    We need strategies for the containment of the pandemic that are sensitive to the needs of each community(notice I did not say wants.).

    I think Ralph Waldo Emerson’s comments on consistency could be reworded like this: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Politicians need to avoid this insanity, especially ones like Rokita.

  12. Probably another highly principled person whose unshakeable beliefs depend on who is paying at the moment.

  13. Abortion is definitely not vaccination.
    Where’s the murder part?
    These issues are not analogues.
    Bad axioms.

  14. Peggy – I might agree with you — if I thought Rokita had any idea what was in the Constitution.

    Sheila and others, you are forgetting to read between the lines. Let me help.

    Republican legislators – “Indianapolis needs four At-Large council seats [unless the Democrats win]”

    McConnell – “No Supreme Court Justice should be appointed in the last year (or two or four) of a President’s term [unless that President is a Republican]”

    Rokita – “Healthcare decisions should be left to the individual [unless I disagree with that individual’s choice]”

    As long as you fill in the unspoken blank, there is great consistency. Sadly.

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