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Texas Bill Would Repeal Immunization Exemption
The Texas Legislature is currently in special session and considering House Bill 89, introduced July 7, 2003. H.B. 89 threatens to remove the newly won freedom recently guaranteed to parents who chose not to have their children immunized.
The House Public Health Committee will hold a public hearing July 10 to consider this legislation.
Two years ago, Home School Legal Defense Association worked with several Texas organizations to change the Texas law to exempt parents who are conscientiously or religiously opposed to giving their children immunizations. The bill almost passed but was defeated.
In this last Texas legislative session, similar legislation (House Bill 2292) quietly passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor. H.B. 2292 specifically stated that immunization is not required if a parent or guardian "declines immunization for reasons of conscience, including religious belief." This language changed the previously restrictive law that required that an objecting family be a member of a recognized church or religious denomination whose tenants and practices are opposed to immunization. Many families are opposed to immunization without being members of such a church, so House Bill 2292 was a great victory for parental rights.
Now, in special session, Representative Capelo is introducing H.B. 89, which would return Texas law to its previous restrictive status. H.B. 89 would again require ALL students to be immunized. Texas children would be subject to as many as 39 doses of 12 different vaccines by the time they enter school.
A child would only be exempted based on a medical exception from a doctor or if the immunization conflicts with "the tenets of an organized religion." Most parents' objections to vaccinations do not fit under these exceptions.
The bill will also extend the restrictive requirements to college-age students.
HSLDA opposes this bill because:
- Parents should be allowed to make decisions concerning their children's preventive health care. There is tremendous controversy over the impact of immunizations. While there is evidence immunizations have prevented outbreaks of harmful or fatal diseases, there is also evidence that vaccines have significant negative short- and long-term side effects.
- Parents have the fundamental right to direct the provision of health care to their children. The state should not override the decisions of parents, especially in the area of preventive care, where many different approaches must be respected.
- Some parents are convinced, based on research they have done, that it would be better for their children not to be immunized. Whether or not we agree with their conclusion, their right to make this decision should be protected.
- The religious exemption proposed by H.B. 89 is unconstitutional since it is limited to only certain religions. Similar laws have been struck down in New York and Massachusetts. A legal opinion drafted by the Office of General Counsel at the Texas Department of Health dated June 2, 1995 noted constitutional problems:
Any effort to disallow an affidavit from a person whose religious beliefs do not come from a 'recognized' religion is likely to be challenged on constitutional grounds... school districts should be aware that the religious exemption statute is vulnerable to a challenge from an applicant whose sincere religious beliefs do not derive from the teachings of a 'recognized' or 'organized' religion.
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