ACLU Says California Vaccine Bill Could Violate State Constitution
The American Civil Liberties Union has sent a letter to state Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Redondo Beach) arguing that their bill (SB 277) to strengthen California's childhood vaccination requirements could be unconstitutional, the Los Angeles Times' "California Journal" reports (Abcarian, "California Journal," Los Angeles Times, 4/24).
SB 277 would end all personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements.
In addition, the bill would:
- Only allow children who have received vaccinations for certain diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, to be admitted to schools in the state; and
- Require schools to inform parents of immunization rates.
The bill would allow exemptions for medical reasons.
Pan and Allen released proposed amendments to broaden the bill's exemption for home-schooled children after a state Senate Education Committee vote on the bill was delayed when opponents raised concerns about children missing out on an education if their parents refused to vaccinate them.
The amendments would allow unvaccinated children to:
- Enroll in private home-schooling programs that serve multiple families, rather than programs that serve just one family; and
- Participate in independent study projects that are overseen by school districts but do not include classroom time (California Healthline, 4/22).
Last week, the committee passed the amended bill, sending it to the state Senate Judiciary Committee (Gorn, California Healthline, 4/23).
Details of Letter
In the letter, Kevin Baker -- legislative director of ACLU of California's Center for Advocacy and Policy -- wrote that children have a right to education under the state's Constitution.
According to "California Journal," the letter did not argue that children should not receive vaccinations, but instead said the state lacks a "compelling interest" to require all students to be vaccinated.
Baker wrote, "Because of the important, fundamental right to education, we think that there just needs to be some very thoughtful consideration given to how to solve this problem," adding, "We're not solving it with this broad brush approach that keeps kids out of school."
In the letter, Baker recommended that lawmakers allow more time to measure the effects of a state law (AB 2109) that requires health professionals to discuss the benefits and risks of vaccinations with parents before they can file a belief exemption.
Baker also said that some schools might appear to have low vaccination rates because of poor record-keeping and reporting or a lack of staff. He said, "Maybe we should put some teeth in this obligation to report to see if we really have a problem, and if so, where it is."
According to "California Journal," lawmakers have not responded to the letter ("California Journal," Los Angeles Times, 4/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.