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Until yesterday, it was hard to imagine how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas could have made the Court’s term any worse. Thomas is considered the ideological godfather of an emboldened, far-right majority on the Court that in the past week alone weakened Miranda rights for people detained by cops, removed the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to actually protect the environment and obliterated the national right to an abortion for women.
In that last instance, Thomas didn’t write the majority opinion but he did pen an inflammatory concurrence inviting challenges to the rights to same-sex marriage and contraception, but notably not interracial marriage, something that’s obviously very dear to his heart.
Then Thomas hit us all with a “hold my beer”, squeezing a reference to the debunked conspiracy theory that Covid-19 vaccines are made of cells from aborted fetuses into his dissent in the Court’s decision to decline a challenge to New York’s vaccine mandate for medical workers.
A group of healthcare workers sued to challenge the mandate, arguing they should be allowed to continue working, unvaccinated, in medical settings, during a pandemic, under a religious exception. Lower courts kicked their challenge to the curb but they appealed to the Supreme Court, where a 6-3 majority, including three Conservative justices, agreed that the case wouldn’t be heard.
Thomas, joined by fellow conservatives Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh, went in his bag, writing that the Court should have taken the opportunity to sort out whether or not a religious exemption should have been granted. He noted that there was a “broad exception” to the mandate—that exception being that you didn’t need a vaccine if it might endanger your life—but noted that the plaintiffs’ argued there was no such consideration for their religious beliefs.
What, exactly, were those beliefs that should make them exempt from vaccination? “They object on religious grounds to all available COVID–19 vaccines because they were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children.”
That. Is. Not. A. Thing, as NBC News explains.
Pfizer and Moderna used fetal cell lines early in their Covid vaccine development to test the efficacy of their formulas, as other vaccines have in the past. The fetal tissue used in these processes came from elective abortions that happened decades ago. But the cells have since replicated many times, so none of the original tissue is involved in the making of modern vaccines.
So it is not true that Covid vaccines are manufactured using fetal cell lines, nor do they contain any aborted cells.
The good thing is the Supreme Court’s term ended yesterday and given his history of sitting on the bench for years without saying anything, it’ll probably be awhile before we hear from Clarence Thomas again.