By Deborah Riffenburgh — Under the guise of boosting school immunization rates, Colorado recently passed the Colorado Healthy Communities Act (SB20-163), which redefines vaccine exemptions and imposes new requirements on parents who choose not to vaccinate. As other states move in this direction, and as a COVID-19 vaccine nears, we must ask: How far can government mandate compliance without violating parents’ Constitutional rights? And what lies in store if citizens neglect to stand up for their rights?
Most parents choose to vaccinate their children – and will do so without government mandates. The small minority who choose not to vaccinate do so for a variety of reasons. Some have deeply held religious beliefs that prohibit vaccination. Some are wary of toxic ingredients such as mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde. Still others object to the unethical use of aborted fetal cells in vaccine production. Some fear the coming COVID vaccine, rushed and poorly tested. And many are rightly concerned about the possibility of allergic reactions and life-threatening side effects, as it is well-known that vaccines harbor grave dangers for certain children. However, very few health conditions qualify for a medical exemption under government guidelines.
The known dangers
A recent study from Ontario, Canada, established that vaccination actually led to an emergency room visit for 1 in 168 children following their 12-month vaccination appointment and for 1 in 730 children following their 18-month vaccination appointment. Commenting on the study, Harvard immunologist, Dr. Tetyana Obukhanych, said:
“When the risk of an adverse event requiring an ER visit after well-baby vaccinations is demonstrably so high, vaccination must remain a choice for parents, who may understandably be unwilling to assume this immediate risk in order to protect their children from diseases that are generally considered mild or that their children may never be exposed to.”
The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has paid out an estimated $4.15 billion to families of children injured by vaccines since the program’s inception in the 1980s, including 520 children who died. Often, one cannot tell prior to vaccination whether a child is at risk.
And while it can certainly be argued that the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks—where there is risk, there must also be choice.
Informed consent and vaccination
People must be able to consent or refuse a medical treatment or procedure, including vaccination. But instead of discussing any potential harm from vaccines, doctors often only tell parents the benefits. Their fears are downplayed or even ridiculed. Little or no information is offered regarding the contents of the vaccine or whether it might be contraindicated for a particular child. Informed consent requires that an individual be given sufficient facts to make a sound decision. It is the freedom to exercise choice – without coercion.
Does government have the right to demand that mothers and fathers violate their conscience and risk their children’s lives or face punishment for refusing? Absolutely not.
Rosalinda Lozano, President of Personhood Colorado issued the following statement at the passage of the new law.
“The choice to vaccinate or not is a very personal, medical decision that should be left in the hands of parents, not bureaucrats. Vaccines come with known risks and are frequently produced through unethical means. The Colorado Healthy Communities Act erodes parents’ freedom to determine for themselves what is best for their children, and opens the door to even tighter restrictions in the future. God created the family to safeguard children and make fundamental decisions regarding their care and upbringing. As such, Personhood Colorado is committed to standing up for parents’ authority to make medical decisions for their children that align with their religious and moral beliefs, without force or coercion to do otherwise.”
The issue at stake here is not whether children ought to be vaccinated. It is whether parents ought to be compelled to do so.
Consequences of the Colorado Healthy Communities Act
The Healthy Communities Act will go into effect in the fall of 2021. Currently, Colorado parents can obtain a vaccine exemption for personal or religious beliefs simply by submitting a signed statement to their child’s school. The new law will continue to allow for exemptions, but will make them much more difficult to obtain – subjecting parents to unreasonable violations of their right to make appropriate medical decisions for their children without government interference.
In order to obtain a vaccine exemption, the new law will require parents to either submit a certificate of medical exemption signed and filed by their child’s doctor or a certificate of non-medical exemption signed by both the parent and the doctor or other qualified medical personnel. Alternatively, parents may submit a certificate of completion of a state approved online education module for each child for whom they are requesting exemption, every year. The bill also requires all exemptions to be filed in a state-wide database, enabling the state to track individuals who delay or decline vaccination. Children whose parents fail to comply will be denied enrollment in public schools.
Theresa Wrangham, the executive director for the National Vaccine Information Center, feels the measure is an effort to coerce people into vaccinating their children. She explains:
“You’re assuming that this group of people who have come to a different decision are ignorant. They require education, and you’re going to make them give up their federal privacy rights in order to get their personal and religious beliefs approved so that their children can attend school. That is wrong to so many of us.”
The Colorado Healthy Communities Act removes power from citizens and places it in the hands of unelected administrative officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health (CDPHE) and the state Board of Health. It requires the CDPHE to create standardized forms for exemptions, which may include compelled speech, acknowledging that failure to vaccinate may endanger a child’s health, even when vaccinations are a danger to the child’s health.
Moving forward, the State Board of Health will have the authority to make or change immunization requirements or practices for school entry, based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). These requirements could include additional vaccines for flu, HPV, and more, not to mention the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, which researchers around the world are racing to get on the market by next year.
A red flag: Removal of religious language
Of significant concern, the Colorado Healthy Communities Act removes the exemptions for personal and religious beliefs. Instead, the law allows only “medical” and “non-medical” exemptions. While this may appear only a matter of semantics, once the words “religious exemption” are removed from the law, it becomes much easier to remove all “non-medical exemptions” in future laws without having to overtly address the loss of First Amendment rights. Our freedom of religion is protected in our Constitution. There is, however, no protection for a “non-medical exemption.” One might easily assert that this could never happen, but in California, Maine, Mississippi, New York, and West Virginia, it already has.
Following in California’s footsteps
In California, prior to 2012, only a written note from a parent was required for a religious or personal belief exemption from vaccinations. In 2012, assembly bill 2109 was passed, which required parents to seek a health provider’s signature to receive a “non-medical” exemption. At that time, Californians were assured they had no need to worry and that their rights would remain intact. But just 4 years later, in 2016, California removed all non-medical exemptions.
In January 2020, a new law, SB276, went into effect. Now, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has the authority to review all exemptions at schools with an immunization rate of less than 95 percent or when a doctor writes more than five medical exemptions in a year. The state public health officer and authorized staff may revoke exemptions that do not align with CDC or ACIP guidelines. If an exemption is revoked, parents may appeal to an “expert review panel” one time only. If the appeal is denied there is no further recourse, putting medically vulnerable children at even greater risk.
Should the decision to vaccinate be left in the hands of bureaucrats and the medical establishment? Should parents who fail to comply be “re-educated;” their personal information tracked in a database? Their children denied education? Perhaps we could consider that, in the great majority of cases, parents have their children’s best interest at heart and can be trusted with this decision – whether it’s the one recommended by “experts” or not.
The time to act is now: What you can do
While proponents of SB-163 insist the new law is benign—in reality—it puts Coloradans on the precipice of a very slippery slope. Unless the people of Colorado act now, it is likely the state will continue down the path laid out by California and other states. Citizens will see even more egregious violations of their liberty in the coming years. Now is not the time to become complacent.
The Colorado Healthy Communities Act is set to take effect in the fall of 2021. This means there is time for the people of Colorado to stop its implementation. Colorado Health Choice Alliance is one organization working toward this end. They can be contacted at LEGAL@cohealthchoice.org. The citizens of Colorado can also contact Governor Polis to make their voice heard on this issue.
Deborah Riffenburgh is the social media coordinator for the Personhood Alliance and has been active in pro-life media for several years. But most importantly, she’s a California mom who is fighting against the lies of our culture and for the protection of every human being without exception.