Last Friday Maryland advocates celebrated victory over an extreme bill called HB0687 designed to remove religious exemptions for vaccination of school age children. Concerned families, physicians, and religious leaders came together over this past month to protect principles and request that the bill be dropped/opposed. Maryland delegates handled a barrage of communications coming from people from all walks of life who were concerned and opposed the bill.
The bill was withdrawn and the committee hearing cancelled. According to The Daily Record, on March 13, 2015, “A Prince George’s County delegate whose law practice includes representing clients who claim adverse reaction to vaccines has withdrawn a bill that would have removed a religious exemption to the state’s vaccination law.” The bill sponsor, Delegate Benjamin Barnes, went on to say that the bill was unnecessary in Maryland.
The movement has begun. Compassion is rising. Fear is falling. The people are in action. Here are seven steps to help you be effective in your state.
- Organize Proactively. Sign up for advocacy portals. The NVIC Advocacy Portal at www.nvic.org describes each bill on vaccines. Set up local social media groups to organize and find one another. Monitor and create a safe space to share information.
- Embrace Collaboration. Health is a conversation everyone owns. Join efforts with people who are have shared concerns. Reach out to people who believe in civil rights, freedom, personal choice, and those who stand up for medical autonomy. Use multiple forms of advocacy. Books and media – movies like “Trace Amounts” and “Bought” are excellent support for this work. Videos and memes help to educate and spread the message quickly.
- Show up. Email and call with the bill number and ask to speak to the representatives or their staff assigned to the bill. Find the contact information on your state government websites. If there are organizations backing the bill, go to them and ask them to reconsider. Find organizations that align and have them put out action alerts describing the bill and who to contact.
- Go Early. Learn the process for how a bill gets created and made into law in your state. Its best to oppose bills before they go to subcommittee. It gets more challenging to stop a bill as it moves through the stages to become a law. Ask bill sponsors for support to drop a bill. Ask for support to oppose. Add up who is for the bill and who is against. Go meet with them and build relatedness and ask them to represent your view with their vote. Let them know if you are in their party and in their district.
- Keep it Simple. Look for simple messages like “Oppose HB0687. This bill is extreme and unnecessary.” You can let them know that vaccine injury is real and is acknowledged by the Federal 1986 Childhood Immunization Act that set up the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and released vaccine manufacturers and doctors from liability. Go in to visit the offices and take 3-4 points to educate representatives and their staff. Be professional, knowledgeable with sources and polite. These offices are bombarded with many issues. Don’t expect them to know your issue well. Ask for baseline safety studies and highlight that the Institute of Medicine recognizes gaps in science around vaccine adverse events.
- Create Relatedness. Hold government representatives accountable to the people not some special interest. Find out who is involved in sponsoring the bill. Ask local journalists to write about your efforts. Contact watchdog organizations. The blame needs to shift from parents to the agencies responsible for vaccine safety.
- Play Full Out to Win. Organize people giving testimony at hearings. Prepare a panel of medical professionals, a panel of religious leaders, a panel of consumer advocates, and parents of vaccine injured children. Meet and practice testimonies so as to coordinate and not have people saying the same thing over and over. Encourage people to be self expressed and engaged in the process. Be committed but not attached to an outcome.
As de Tocqueville wrote during our country’s early years as a nation: Americans are a different breed! I treasure our nation, its people, its principles and the institutions that were created to support those principles. Today Maryland celebrates the extraordinary people who came together to support this movement to protect freedom, parental rights, and medical autonomy. Well done!
Dawn Loughborough is the mother of three children; two experienced adverse events from their childhood vaccines. Dawn is committed to the well being of children and has been advocating on behalf of the vaccine injured child since 1998. She is president of the DAIR Foundation and her family is featured in the movie documentary "Bought" a Jeff Hays Film Production.