The rash of tough pro-vaccine bills that infected state legislatures after the Disneyland measles outbreak has largely faded, and based on the uproar in California, it’s not hard to see why.
The state capitol has been flooded off and on for months with parental-choice advocates drawing thousands for protests against Senate Bill 277, which would eliminate personal belief or religious exemptions and require all children without a medical exemption to be vaccinated before entering public school.
And the outcry has only grown louder as the bill nears passage, spreading beyond the issue of vaccination safety and morphing into a full-blown revolt against government intrusion into civil liberties.
At a rally Tuesday in Sacramento that drew a crowd of more than 1,000, Republican assembly member Shannon Grove told the sign-waving crowd that California state legislators “have forgotten who they work for.”
“There is no public health crisis here that warrants this law. These politicians don’t want you to think for yourself,” said Ms. Grove to enthusiastic cheers. “They think they are better parents than you are and they are annoyed that you are clogging up their hallways. They are annoyed that you are demanding to be left alone. They are annoyed that you are not compliant.”
Even so, Democrats on the Assembly Health Committee approved the measure Tuesday on a 12-6 party-line vote, placing the measure on a glide path to the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the desk of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
Republican assembly member Jim Patterson said in a statement after the committee vote that he has no problem with vaccinations, but he does have a problem with big government.
Mr. Patterson said. “After doing my own research, I’m confident that this bill is an example of a government overreach and in light of high and ever-growing volunteer vaccination rates in California, is simply not needed.”
“Forcing parents to choose between their personal or religious beliefs and sending their child to school is excessive,” he said. “These kids are not dangerous and don’t deserve to be isolated and segregated by S.B. 277. There are better solutions.”
“This bill is not about measles or pertussis,” said Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center, in her testimony. “It is about taking power away from mothers and fathers to make medical risk decisions for their minor children and handing it over to doctors to implement a one-size-fits-all policy with no personal accountability for the children who become casualties of that policy.”
“Parental rights are important but not all rights are equal,” Dr. Blumberg said. “The right to individual and public health afforded by requiring vaccines for school attendance trumps a parent’s right to make a choice that is not backed by scientific evidence.”
Those who still refuse to vaccinate fully their children before kindergarten would have the option to home-school. “People have a right to ignore science,” Ms. Henry said, “but that choice has consequences.”
Mr. Brown has said he will “strongly consider” the S.B. 277 if it reaches his desk, and Jack Pitney, government professor at Claremont McKenna College, said it’s unlikely the opposition will sway him.
“The opponents of the bill are vocal but they probably won’t have much impact on the governor,” Mr. Pitney said. “Many of the opponents come from the right side of the spectrum. But California is a deep-blue state where conservatives have little practical influence.”
“In his long career, he has seen every kind of protest over every kind of issue,” Mr. Pitney said. “The opponents of this bill have no leverage over him.”