Gov. Brown’s Immunization Law Disappoints and Disempowers Thinking Parents

While pro-vaxxers are thrilled with Governor Jerry Brown’s decision to make immunizations mandatory, many thinking parents feel disempowered by it. And for good reason.

Photo used with permission, courtesy of KCRA-TV Sacremento

Photo used with permission, courtesy of KCRA-TV Sacremento

Whether guided by shoot-from-the hip, gut-based decision-making or well-researched, rational thought, most parents have their children’s best interests at heart and try like the devil to do right by them. No parent wants a child to become sick or die because they made a “bad” decision.

But in signing this bill, which does away with exemptions from state immunization laws based on religious or other personal beliefs, Brown denies all California parents the right to make an important medical decision for their children, setting a dangerous precedent for other states.

Maturity, they say, is the ability to live with the outcome of one’s decisions. As parents we know that whatever we decide for our children can be a source of tremendous joy or unimaginable pain. We can only ask for love. For forgiveness. And for our politicians to let it be.

Sadly, Gov. Jerry Brown refused to “let it be.”

Here’s my truth: If  parents feel it necessary for whatever reason to protect their children from the possible negative side effects of vaccines, it should be up to them whether or not their kids get them – regardless of socio-economic status. I think it unconscionable that any state should impose vaccine compliance on public school children.

Not that I am an “anti-vaxxer.” I am pro-parent choice. And definitely not in favor of medical battery – a term I recently learned. It means “the intentional violation of a patient’s right to direct their own medical treatments.” When parents no longer have the right to determine medical treatments for their own children, it’s a very sad day indeed – as though parents are being hog-tied by the state. Brown’s decision discourages independent investigation of the truth. And isn’t that what parents are supposed to do in order to make the best decisions for their children? To me, that’s what good parenting is about. Or… are parents now supposed to leave medical decisions to profit-driven drug companies?

I’m from the generation that questioned authority. I do not hold with forcing parents to relinquish control over their children for medical decision-making. Or any decision-making, for that matter. Whether right or wrong, parents make decisions based on the best information at their disposal at any given time. It’s their choice and they are the ones who must live with the outcome.

Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, or who are plagued by other addictions, are not coerced into treatment. I know people with untreated mental illness who are not forced to take meds or get therapy. And yes, these problems are passed down from generation to generation and can certainly affect the unborn. They can even be the cause of death. But no one is stopping drug users or alcoholics from killing themselves and destroying their families. How much more destructive are they than a child who comes down with a case of measles?

Parents in Calif. can still opt out if they home school or use public independent study. But many parents say they cannot afford to stay at home.  However… I think the conversation over who can afford to stay home and who cannot has been hijacked by the media (including Pew Research) and the daycare industry. It’s no crime to be a poor stay-at-home mother. Not all moms who stay at home belong to the “opt-out” category: married, with advanced degrees and giving up a six figure income to care for children. Some are barely getting by, and if they are lucky, might receive some government assistance. But at least they have the peace of mind that they are doing what they deem best for their children. Just because parents are  low-income, doesn’t mean they are not good nurturers and teachers, or that they can’t be resourceful.

Research on parent-child communication from the UK reveals that it is what parents do with their children in terms of  interaction that makes a difference in  learning,  even more than income. (Perspective, journal of the National Childbirth Trust, March 2012).

In passing this bill, Gov. Brown must know he’s ignited a firestorm. I can imagine a bureaucratic nightmare the likes of which California has never seen. Not to mention how busy CPS is going to get, following up on all those allegations of non-compliance. And the cost to taxpayers when parents sue the system for damages suffered by their children. One can only hope that someday California will lead the nation in a  movement to restore these usurped parental rights.

To the parents who wished they’d only followed their intuition and not been bullied into the decision to immunize according to the state’s plan:  I will weep for you.

While Brown may not be the darling of political conservatives, whom the public normally associates with corporate exploitation, it matters little. Big pharma is big “phunding.”

Yesterday I read a fascinating article about medical ghostwriters who are paid by drug manufacturers like Merck. The company controls the content, but finds a doctor’s name to slap on the article, which is finally published in a medical journal. One German doctor protested his “authorship” when research he was supposedly overseeing appeared in a prestigious medical journal. The journal then retracted the article. This is the way it’s done these days. And I would not doubt that some of these ghostwritten articles have been on the subject of vaccine safety.

Ghostwriting can be a lucrative profession. I’ve done it myself. Investigative journalists only need to follow the money. If the lead authors of these journal articles do not truly represent the research, or have been pressured or manipulated by manufacturers like Merck, the public needs to know the truth.

I have been called a radical parent. But I would argue that I am a thinking parent. I believe that if we truly want what is best for our children, we owe it to them to do our best thinking. Because only then can we make our best parenting decisions.  Governor Jerry Brown’s new vaccine law disappoints thinking parents because it disengages them from the decision-making process. And that is what I find so downright discouraging.  FFG

For further reading: “Merck used ghostwriters and misrepresented data on Vioxx, article says”



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