Will the anti-choice movement win?
It is strangely fitting that on the same day the Lancet announced it was retracting the first paper possibly linking MMR vaccination with gastrointestinal symptoms among the autistic [i], the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN) announced that without a significant injection of funds, the organization would be closing at the end of the month.
The AVN started out in 1994 – an idea inspired by a seminar presented by Dr Viera Scheibner, a research scientist who discovered, through the use of the Cot-Watch monitors she and her partner had invented, that infants were having episodes of hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) and apnea (periods when breathing stops) following vaccination.
Dr Scheibner, a well-respected researcher, had her career and her business destroyed because she had the temerity to link vaccination with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
In the same way, Dr Wakefield may have had his career destroyed by his claim that for a susceptible subset of the population, there is reason to believe vaccination might be a causal factor in the development of ASDs.
The mainstream world does not welcome these messages. It does not greet those whose work – often thankless and unpaid – is intended to ask questions about procedures that are considered to be sacrosanct – above question. (starting with “is intended”, I don’t understand what you are saying.)
Instead, these individuals continue to work on the sidelines – doing what they can, when they can, often risking both the loss of their reputation and financial ruin. When I started the AVN, it was due to a strong desire to see justice done – a need to prevent the sorts of reactions which had hurt my own son so badly and which continue to affect him today – almost 21 years later.
I was not given any information about the risks of vaccination before blithely giving up my precious child to the ‘care’ of medicine. Sadly, my son paid the price for my ignorance. I vowed then to do what it takes to prevent this situation in the future.
As an American living in Australia, I brought with me the can-do attitude of Americans; the idea that anything that is worth having and protecting is worth fighting for.
This attitude has been sorely tried over the last 17 years. Tried by the media that only wants to protect its advertising revenue regardless of the cost to truth and justice; tried by the medical community whose roots and income are linked with an unshakable, almost religious belief in vaccination and the germ theory; tried by the government whose policies have led people to believe that vaccination is compulsory even though, in Australia at least, it is not; and tried by the parents who have been taught to fear the diseases we currently vaccinate against and to blame those who have made informed choices about not vaccinating for outbreaks in the fully vaccinated.
I have had death threats from those who are too cowardly to confront me on the facts of my argument. I have had complaints filed against me because I only gave one side of the argument – despite the fact that this side is not available elsewhere while the medical community’s one-sided argument is pervasive. I have been called the Baby Killer of Bangalow (the small community where I live) and told that I am personally responsible for the current record-high level of whooping cough (almost 30,000 cases reported in Australia last year) despite the fact that our vaccination level is currently also at a record high.
All of this means nothing to me, however, when put in context. For the successes we have had over the years, the good that the AVN has done in the community, counterbalances these negatives.
Since 1994, the AVN has:
1- Helped draft and pass legislation that preserves the individual’s right to conscientiously object to vaccination; enabling all children everywhere to attend school, preschool, childcare and daycare whether they are vaccinated, unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
2- Protected the government entitlements paid to parents of unvaccinated children – entitlements which were going to rely on vaccination compliance.
3- Helped parents who were being forced to vaccinate their newborn infants with Hep B vaccination or lose custody of their child with a possible jail sentence if they refused. We found places for these parents to hide and protected them until the hospitals and public health authorities were forced to relent. In one case, we demanded and got changes to New South Wales (NSW) health policies, strengthening a parent’s rights to refuse these vaccinations regardless of the Hep B status of the mother. Due to these changes, similar situations should now be a thing of the past.
4- Provided a toll-free national telephone number to allow parents and health professionals to report adverse reactions to vaccinations. Reactions which we then reported to the government so they would be added to the official statistics. We are proud – and sorry – to say that in some years, the AVN provided more information about vaccine reactions to the government than all of the doctors in Australia combined!
5- Ran a free telephone support service that would provide information and support to those who were trying to make an informed vaccination decision as well as for those who had been discriminated against as a result of their vaccination status.
This is only a small sample of the work that is done by the AVN every day of the week and, many times, on the weekend as well.
All of this work has enabled a generation of Australians and others around the world (via our website) to become better informed, more proactive and to gain confidence in their ability to make the best possible health choices for their children.
I am proud of my role over the last 17 years; proud of the organization that grew out of a need for justice and support; proud of the way in which we have conducted ourselves with dignity and grace in the face of incredibly rabid and many times hurtful opposition.
It is sad that this organization may have to stop its good work. It is sad that parents may no longer be able to avail themselves of its information or that they may not be supported when facing discrimination.
It is especially sad considering the fact that legislation is now pending in Federal Parliament which will label those who choose not to vaccinate as neglectful parents and take their government payments away from them. And other legislation that is pending in the South Australian State parliament will make it a crime punishable by up to $1,000,000 in fines and up to 3 months in prison to refuse testing, drug treatment or vaccination against infectious diseases.
These are dangerous times and it is not the time for our organization to close down. But without financial support, without a large input of cash, we have no choice.
Will we let those who oppose our right to choose; those who label Andrew Wakefield, Simon Murch and John Walker-Smith as unethical; those who say that Bailey Banks and Hannah Poling were not harmed by vaccines; those who say that we, as free citizens of a democratic nation are not entitled to make our own choices when it comes to our bodies; win this battle?
The answer to that question is in your hands. I am at peace with my decision to stop when I no longer receive the support I need.
Perhaps the great American activist, Fredrick Douglass, said it best. Born a slave, without the benefits of education or wealth, Douglass triumphed against a time where being black was equal to being less than human. A time when few blacks were free – let alone literate. His triumph over his condition and the influence for good he had over others, including his work for justice for the poor, the downtrodden, and women’s suffrage, make him a beacon almost 115 years after his death.
Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.
I hope I am allowed to continue the struggle.
Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them -- and then, the opportunity to choose. - C. Wright Mills
The authority of any governing institution must stop at its citizen's skin. - Gloria Steinem
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