On Thursday, California State Assembly passed a very controversial bill that requires nearly all schoolchildren attending public schools to be vaccinated. The measure currently awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval.
The new bill was a response to this winter’s measles outbreak which had affected 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico. If it becomes law, the measure would strike down the personal belief exemption California parents clung to to avoid vaccinating their children.
Only parents of the children diagnosed with severe health conditions will still be able to require the exemption. Other parents who still refuse to vaccinate their children will be forced to resort to home schooling.
Besides California, only Mississippi and Virginia have similar strict vaccination laws. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said that the move was crucial before a “full-fledged crisis” would emerge.
The bill passed on a 46-30 vote following nearly a month of hot debates and stiff opposition. Thousands of parents have requested their representatives to vote against the law. Protests were also held at the Capitol.
But the backers of the law had an ace up their sleeve – a 7-year-old boy diagnosed with leukemia whose parents said that they couldn’t send him at the public school for almost a year because he couldn’t take the measles shot when the outbreak occurred.
Rep. Assemblywoman Catharine Bake argued Thursday that the government needs to fight not only for those that don’t want the vaccine but for those that cannot take it as well. The bill had Democratic support, but two Republican assemblywomen joined the cause.
Before Gov. Brown signs it off, the Senate will have to amend the bill by next week’s end. The California governor declined to tell whether he would sign into law the measure proposed by Democratic Sens. Ben Allen and Richard Pan.
His office said in a press release that the governor viewed vaccinations as a “major public health benefit,” so any bill related to them would be closely examined. Critics of the measure said that they would turn to Governor Brown for help.
“Parents are being bullied into having their children vaccinated or not sending their kids to school,”
one of the protestors gathered at the Capitol said Thursday.
Sen. Bill Monning, who voted for the bill but whose constituents are mostly parents who seek exemptions, said he had to temporarily close his district office for fear of retaliation.
But some Republicans said that the new bill took away parents’ rights. Assemblyman Devon Mathis argued that no legislature had the right, nor should it have the power to deprive a parent from their right to choose.
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