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« NYT HEARTS CDC | Main | Schools Policing Vaccination Rates »

Where is the ACLU? What about Parents' Rights?

Jailanne_2  By Anne McElroy Dachel

It truly caught me by surprise yesterday to read this Fox News story and watch the video on FOX 5 News in Washington DC.  The story was titled, "Parents Of Teens Lacking Immunization Called To Court."


The public heard about parents who were getting the required vaccines for their children to attend school.  We were told that officials had done everything to try to get them to have their children immunized; now a judge was ordering them to court where they would have to have their kids vaccinated or face jail time and a fine.

The FOX 5 video had officials saying things like, "We can do this the easy way, or the hard way, but it's going to have to get done."  That seemed a little dramatic, especially since these parents also have the right to exempt their children for religious reasons in this county.

The thing that stood out immediately in this piece was the failure of the reporter to cite the reasons for non-compliance.  Without that, this was a totally one-sided report that left viewers with more questions than answers.

As the day progressed, I noticed more stories about this ultimatum on the news.  Lots of TV stations put out the same brief announcement.  It told about the court order and the threat of jail or a fine if parents didn't have their kids vaccinated.

I found another news video, this time on WUSA-TV 9 also in Washington DC. Parents Of Non-Immunized Students Face Criminal Charges  It was the top news story on this station.  The same official was interviewed saying they had no choice, legal action would be taken.  News people seemed puzzled by the parents' actions.  Viewers were left with the feeling that these were just negligent parents who didn't care about the health of their children.

Then I watched ABC News cover the story in "School Uses the Threat of Jail to Force Parents to Vaccinate" on the national news.  Here officials are "at wit's end" and parents are labeled "stubborn."   Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is interviewed to back up these officials.  He tells us parents have had "ample opportunity" to vaccinate, "so shame on them." 

What bothered me was the complete failure of any of the sources purporting to be covering the news legitimately to tell us why parents were refusing.  Couldn't Fox 5, WUSA 9 or ABC NEWS find even one parent to get their side?  Did anyone even look?  We were instead presented with situation where parents were assumed to be lazy or negligent.  The coverage implied that there couldn't be any legitimate reason for non-compliance.   

Many parents and others are alarmed at this drastic action.  Most states have some form of exemption from vaccines and a growing number of parents are using this right.  Some object for religious, philosophical, or medical reasons.  More and more parents have concerns over vaccines safety and a link to autism.  A number of stories have been out about parents falsely claiming a religious exemption just to avoid vaccinations.

Forcing parents to have their children vaccinated seems more like the tactic of a totalitarian state and not a representative democracy.  Dr. Sherri Tenpenny put out an announcement about this with a frightening quote from presidential candidate Ron Paul, "When we give government the power to make medical decisions for us, we, in essence, accept that the state owns our bodies."  I wondered where the ACLU was in all this.  Wasn't this an issue dealing with individual rights?

This coverage was such propaganda that it should have been an embarrassment to the "journalists" running the stories.   What happened to being fair and balanced?  Was there some reason the media didn't want the public to hear from non-vaccinating parents?  Could it be that if parents were allowed to explain their reasons more would stop vaccinating?  Dr. Schaffner may tell parents, "Shame on you," but I say, "Shame on ABC, WUSA 9, and Fox 5."

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"I wondered where the ACLU was in all this. Wasn't this an issue dealing with individual rights?"

That's hardly fair. There isn't actually a legal challenge over this yet, so the ACLU doesn't really have any way to lend the parents aid. If some of the parents chose to fight this, and asked for the ACLU's help, I'm sure they'd get it.

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