Outrage Over Florida Bill SB 646 to Restrict Vaccine ExemptionsUpdated: January 25, 2018 Vaccination
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. ~ unknown
It was the kind of email that could wreck your day in a hurry …
On November 4, 2015, I received an email from the National Vaccine Information Center Advocacy Portal. I am signed up as a vaccine choice advocate for the state of Florida, and hence receive timely updates when any bill affecting the freedom of citizens to exercise their basic human and civil right to refuse forced medical procedures is filed with the state.
If there is a risk, there MUST be a choice. Medical ethics demands it.
The email notified me that Senator Hays (R) of district 11 had just filed SB 646, a bill which would significantly restrict medical and religious vaccine exemptions, expand and force participation in a vaccine tracking system (it is voluntary at the present time), and require public posting of vaccination exemption rates for individual schools.
Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, right?
Not anymore if these types of bills get passed! How can you possibly claim that you are free when you cannot refuse a basic medical procedure for yourself or your minor children that carries significantly more risk to your health than any possible benefit?
Rapidly, the activists around the state went into overdrive to stop this bill in its tracks. We only had a couple of days to kill it. The Florida legislature was in attendance in a special session on redistricting until Friday November 6, so there was a small window of opportunity where legislators were in their offices so citizens could show strong opposition to prevent the bill from getting co-sponsors and eventual committee hearings once the new session started on January 12, 2016.
Action needed to be taken immediately!
Like many citizens from around the state who became aware of this precarious situation, I made two phones calls that morning. The first was to my state senator urging him to not be a co-sponsor of SB 646. I explained the primary problems with it: Tracking the confidential medical status of citizens like animals whether they are vaccinated or not, restricting medical exemptions to a narrow list of state “approved” conditions, and requiring parents to submit in writing for a religious exemption instead of a simple verbal request at the health department as it stands now. I also expressed concern over the bill’s mandating that all schools be required to post the school’s vaccine exemption rate on its website potentially instigating a hostile community environment against those using vaccine exemptions.
I explained the elitist aspect of the bill – how would illiterate or learning impaired parents who don’t have the ability to write a letter clearly expressing their religiously held objections be accommodated? I went into the fascist aspect of a mandatory vaccine tracking system, with ominous, Hitler-esque overtones that would cause any freedom loving American to shudder.
The second phone call was to my state representative. I asked him to please not support this bill if it happened to succeed in the state senate and made its way across the aisle to the state house. I covered the main issues listed above.
Having done all I could do at that point, I waited.
The next day, I joined a private online group that had quickly organized to oppose SB 646. The suggestion on this group was to call Senator Hays’ office directly to request that he withdraw the bill in the interest of the citizens of Florida and their right to exercise their basic human and civil right to make medical decisions for their children and decline forced medical procedures they deem not to be in line with their religious beliefs.
It was late in the day, so I decided to call in the morning when the senator would be in his office. Literally, the next day as I was looking up Senator Hays’ phone number to make the call, an email landed in my inbox that the bill had been withdrawn! No doubt Senator Hays had tested the waters with potential co-sponsors and had discovered that there weren’t as many as he thought probably due to many citizens contacting their state legislators directly. In addition, the calls and emails of outrage to his own office were probably overwhelming as well.
One person on the activist site I had joined suggested leaving Senator Hays a thank you on his Facebook page, so I did.
The citizens of Florida have dodged a bullet for the time being. Hooray for grassroots activism at its finest!
Will another similar bill be introduced in the future? Possibly so, but when and if it happens, the citizens of Florida are ready thanks to the quick death of SB 646.
If you would like to join the NVIC Advocacy Portal to get updates on any bills that threaten your vaccine rights whether in Florida or any other state, click here.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist