Published December 30, 2016
Your right to vaccine exemptions is under attack in many states, from Texas to California, with lawmakers increasingly pushing for...
— William Wilberforce
Word spread quickly in several of my online groups that Delegates in the Commonwealth of Virginia had introduced a vaccine bill. Like other vaccine bills that have popped up in other states, HB1342 was a bad bill.
As quickly as the bill was introduced, it was assigned to a Subcommittee and added to the next Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee’s agenda. It was imperative that those who opposed the bill act quickly. Virginians wasted no time. Representatives were contacted. Travel plans were made. Parents, providers and many, many others helped to spread the word. I was one of those parents.
Since I could get to the hearing where 3 minutes of public testimony was to be included, I drafted a short speech.
Delagate Filler-Corn, Dr. Stolle and other Members of the Committee,
“You know your child best.”
As the mom to five kids, I’ve heard that statement several times over the last few years. I hear that one and that I should always trust my mother’s instinct. I’ve made mistakes before when I didn’t listen to my instinct which is why I’m here today. My gut tells me that HB1342 is a bad bill. I’d like to tell you why.
This bill violates existing law that protects religious and parental rights. To take those rights away, something that so many in the Commonwealth have fought to secure, preserve and protect, is incomprehensible.
HB1342 not only violates religious rights and personal rights, it undermines our doctor and their ability to work with my children, including my son who was severely injured by vaccines. Finding the right doctor to attend to that injury took time. Our doctor understands my child’s healthcare needs well, not you, Dr. Stolle, nor any of the other members of this committee. This bill would prevent my son’s doctor from using professional judgement which would impede them from appropriately treating him. That, plus mandating vaccines while also restricting the existing medical exemption, which is what HB1342 would do, is unethical and would not serve any of my children well.
I could now cite a few statistics for the committee, like the fact that Virginia has a high vaccine rate despite already low exemptions rates, or I could remind you that those who manufacture vaccines have no liability for their product and that those who administer them can do so without being held accountable for any injury or death resulting, or I could point out that the CDC states that all vaccines come with risk, or I could make it clear to you that when there is a risk, there must always be a choice, but I’ll leave you with a final statement and a request instead.
HB1342 is an overreach of the government. I respectfully ask that you withdraw this draconian bill and refrain from introducing other bills like it.
I never had to make that speech. Thankfully, HB1342 was stricken from the docket soon after the Health, Welfare and Institution’s Committee meeting started. I was overjoyed.
Instead of returning home right away, a friend and I, as well as other parents who’d gathered in the General Assembly building, set out to talk to the Delegates about what happens next. Even with HB1342 off the docket, there’s no telling if another bill will make its way to the floor. Obviously, it wouldn’t return with the same wording, but I don’t doubt that another vaccine bill is in the works. That’s why it was important for those of us who opposed HB1342 to follow up with the Delegates and to learn how to stay abreast with legislation.
I learned that one of the quickest ways to check on a bill in Virginia is to us the Legislative Information System website. (Click on the Bills & Resolutions link). When I got back home I did that and could see the timeline of HB1342 to include that it was stricken from the docket with a voice vote. Something else that I did when I got back home was check in on the Facebook groups that had started to mobilize people. It was there that I was reminded of another way for people to keep track of vaccine legislation (and not just for Virginia but for all 50 states): sign up with the National Vaccine Information Center’s Advocacy portal.
The National Vaccine Information Center’s main website (www.nvic.org/about.aspx) has a great deal of valuable information. Founded in 1982, NVIC has been my go-to website for whenever I have a question about vaccines, vaccine safety, and vaccine law. I frequently share the link with moms-to-be and to those parents who are unaware that “school shots” are not necessarily required. When it comes to knowing current vaccine law and policy, though, and to how to know how to advocate for personal rights, the Advocacy portal is the site I share.
Not surprising, as with many other bills, when NVIC got word that HB1342 was introduced, they got to work and posted information for parents like me to read. They shared details of the bill and also posted an urgent action alert. No doubt that their swift response helped inform the public the steps to take so we could help kill the bill.
I got the chance to speak to Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of NVIC, the day after HB1342 was stricken from the docket. She’s delighted at how things worked out in Virginia. I let her know that I was, too. So many people came together very quickly to make phone calls, to send emails, and to get personally in touch with the Delegates. I believe that that grassroots effort made a big difference.
That effort is still needed elsewhere. Unfortunately, other states still have a fight ahead of them—Wisconsin, Hawaii, and New York just to name a few. With as many states ready to attack and remove parental rights, when asked where she thought things are going with vaccine legislation, Barbara Loe Fisher said we’re looking at forced vaccination of all federally mandated vaccines with no exemptions with a 100% vaccine rate with no liability and no compensation (for injuries). For me, that’s a scary, scary thought! But with how California’s SB277 sailed through committee, after committee, after committee and passed into law, I would not be surprised that that’s coming.
Hopefully it won’t happen in Virginia this legislative season. Taking HB1342 off the docket was a victory, but we cannot let one minor victory sidetrack us. More parents need to become aware of what’s happening. Medical providers need to be better educated on vaccine safety. Representatives need to be educated as well. They will also still need to hear from us. That’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s possible for us citizens to band together to get that work done.
Note: This article was reprinted with the author’s permission. It was originally published by Age of Autism. Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.