Miss. Gov. Tate Reeves shares why he supports 'individual liberty' for vaccines but not abortion

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks during a press conference on August 30, 2021. | Screenshot: Facebook/Tate Reeves

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves shared Sunday why he believes the principle of "individual liberty" and bodily autonomy should apply to COVID-19 vaccine mandates but not to abortion restrictions.

In an interview with Chuck Todd on the MSNBC program “Meet the Press," the Republican governor was asked how he reconciles his opposition to vaccine mandates with his support for a controversial Mississippi law restricting abortion after 15 weeks of gestation.

Todd played a brief video of Reeves from an earlier interview in which he stated that Mississippians should be allowed “freedom and individual liberty” to decide whether to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Freedom and individual liberty. Why should the state of Mississippi tell a woman what they should do with their body? Why shouldn’t they have that individual freedom on their body, particularly in the first 20 weeks?” Todd inquired.

Reeves responded that those comparing vaccine mandates and abortion laws like Mississippi’s “absolutely ignore the fact that in getting an abortion, there is an actual killing of an innocent, unborn child that is in that womb.”

“Here’s what we know about babies that are 15 weeks. We know that they have a heartbeat. We know that those babies at 15 weeks actually can open and close their hands. We know that they have developing lungs. And we know that those babies at 15 weeks can feel pain,” he said. 

“The difference between vaccine mandates and abortions is vaccines allow you to protect yourself. Abortions actually go in and kill other American babies.”

Todd pushed back on Reeves’ assessment that vaccines are about protecting oneself, arguing that vaccines involve protecting the community, not just the individual.

“A vaccine is about protecting a larger community. A vaccine is about preventing spread. You could argue a vaccine mandate is a pro-life position,” Todd countered.

The governor responded by referencing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has acknowledged that even vaccinated individuals can spread the coronavirus to others but that the vaccine benefits the individual by improving their immunity.

“During this very horrible and challenging time since I was sworn into office in January of 2020, Chuck, we’ve had 800,000 American lives lost because of COVID. And my heart aches for every single one of those individuals that have died because of COVID,” added Reeves.

“But since [Roe v. Wade] was enacted, 62 million American babies have been aborted, and therefore have been killed. And that’s why I think it’s very important that people like myself and others across this country stand up for those unborn children because they don’t have the ability to stand up for themselves.”

Reeves’ MSNBC interview comes days before the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court is slated to hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1, which will center on whether a state can prohibit abortion procedures performed before fetal viability, such as the 15-week ban.

The state law contradicts the controversial legal precedent of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which struck down laws that barred abortion before fetal viability had been attained.  

On Sunday night, Reeves joined national Christian conservative speakers for a prayer event held at New Horizon Church in Jackson, Mississippi, ahead of Wednesday’s oral arguments. 

“Wednesday morning, hopefully, will be the beginning of a new day in our struggle to protect the most vulnerable,” Reeves said. “There are just not really enough words how historic this case is not only for Mississippi, but for our nation and for the 62 million babies who have been aborted since Roe v. Wade was wrongfully enacted.”

“Now, I think too many politicians are afraid to say it, but I’ll say it: Abortion is barbaric,” he continued to cheers and applause. “Abortion is evil. It’s probably the greatest evil of our day. Every single day in America, thousands of children lose their God-given inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Reeves said he doesn't think that it's “unreasonable to believe that laws should be in place to preserve and to protect the sanctity of human life.”

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