Port: But I thought it was my body, my choice?

"Under this bill, which applies to humans and 'any other mammal,' I couldn't even choose to get certain vaccines for my dog."

Sen. Jeff Magrum R-Hazelton, left, and Dr. Steven Nagel, of Mandan, testified on SB 2078 in front of the Senate Human Services Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023 in Bismarck.
Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

MINOT, N.D. — Is there a bigger hypocrite in the North Dakota legislature than Sen. Jeff Magrum?

I'm not sure there is.

In recent weeks Magrum, part of the extreme Trumpy wing of the North Dakota Republican Party, has positioned himself as a champion of property rights with a monomaniacal raft of bills targeting a carbon pipeline project. But Magrum once tried to seize his neighbor's property without paying for it through an obscure legal doctrine and litigated the matter to the state Supreme Court (where he lost, by the way).

How can you be for property rights, and then do something like that?

Now Magrum, an ardent anti-vaccine crank, is trying to ban COVID-19 shots. Or, more specifically, any vaccine "developed using messenger ribonucleic acid technology for use in an individual or any other mammal in this state," as Senate Bill 2384 puts it .


Magrum is the primary sponsor on the bill, and his co-sponsors are some of the most high-profile nincompoops currently serving in Bismarck, including Sen. David Clemens, who wants to criminalize pronouns , Rep. Scott Dyk, who insulted his home district's school teachers and football team with some apparent fabulism about transgender students he refuses to retract , and Rep. Jeff Hoverson, whose sexuality was so threatened by the TSA that he's trying to ban frisk searches .

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"I'm an atheist, and even I'm shocked about the level of anti-religion antipathy this legislation has engendered."

Quite the brain trust, I must say, but it's fair to argue that the provenance of a piece of legislation is not necessarily an argument against it. Even stopped clocks are right twice a day, as the saying goes. Sometimes good ideas can come from unexpected places.

Only, this legislation is not only a bad idea, it's seemingly an affront to the argument anti-vaccine activists have been making for years.

What happened to the "my body, my choice" stuff?

That slogan was deployed as an argument against vaccine mandates, and in that context, it made a bit more sense. I'm generally against vaccine mandates. I think employers and certain institutions such as the military should be able to require them. But, generally, the solution to vaccine resistance should be persuasion, not force. Force only entrenches resistance.

Anti-vaccine nonsense needs to be overcome with reason and facts, not authoritarianism.

But if people who are anti-vaccine should have choice, why not people who are pro-vaccine? I'm fully vaccinated against COVID-19. I made that choice after a near-death experience with the virus, and some in-depth conversations with my doctor. I feel it was an informed choice, and the right one for me.

Sen. Magrum, who, along with his Trumpy cronies, likes to fashion himself as some paragon of conservatism, wants the government to stop me from making that choice.


That's ludicrous. Not only poor public policy on its face, but also a confounding deviation from what people like Magrum would like us to believe is their ideology. Under this bill, which applies to humans and "any other mammal," I couldn't even choose to get certain vaccines for my dog.

How does that advance the causes of individual liberty and limited government, things conservatives are supposed to care about?

The answer is that it does not.

Now ask yourself if grandstanding populists like Magrum even care anymore.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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