Opponents of California’s New Vaccine Law Take Action
Opponents of a new California law (SB 277) that ends all personal belief exemptions to childhood vaccination requirements started taking action against the legislation after it was signed last week, AP/Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reports ("KXJZ News," AP/Capital Public Radio, 7/3).
Background on the Law
Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed SB 277, by state Sens. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and Ben Allen (D-Redondo Beach), which only allows children who have received vaccinations for certain diseases -- such as measles and whooping cough -- to be admitted to schools in the state.
The legislation allows exemptions for medical reasons. In addition, the measure was amended to:
- Allow unvaccinated children to enroll in private home-schooling programs that serve multiple families, rather than programs that serve just one family;
- Permit such children to participate in independent study projects that are overseen by school districts but do not include classroom time;
- Remove a provision that would have required schools to inform parents of immunization rates; and
- Allow physicians to consider family histories when determining medical exemptions.
The law is slated to go into effect on July 1, 2016 (California Healthline, 7/1).
Details of Opposition
A day after Brown signed the law, former Assembly member and gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) filed a referendum on the measure with the California Attorney General's office (Adler, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 7/1).
According to KPCC's "KPCC News," Donnelly has 90 days from when Brown signed the legislation to circulate and file petitions, as well as collect more than 365,000 signatures to get the referendum on the 2016 ballot (Plevin, "KPCC News," KPCC, 7/1).
Donnelly said, "This referendum is not about vaccinations; it is about defending the fundamental freedom of a parent to make an informed decision for their children without being unduly penalized by a government that believes it knows best" (Richardson, Washington Times, 7/2).
Donnelly's proposed referendum marked the first formal challenge to the law, but others are expected to follow, according to "KPCC News."
Christina Hildebrand, founder of A Voice for Choice, said the organization will seek to overturn the law through a separate ballot referendum. Hildebrand said the group also will file a lawsuit alleging that the law violates children's right to education ("KPCC News," KPCC, 7/1).
Meanwhile, other opponents of the law have organized a group of attorneys to develop a legal challenge to SB 277, Reuters reports.
According to Melissa Floyd, a spokesperson for the California Coalition for Health Choice, the lawyers are working to obtain an injunction against the law on the argument that it violates the right to education. Floyd called the law "discriminatory," adding, "The California Legislature just created a brand new group of second-class citizens, innocent healthy children who will permanently be barred from schools and day care because they haven't received all doses of the vaccines on the schedule" (Bernstein, Reuters, 7/1).
According to the Times, no lawsuits have been filed so far, likely because the law does not actually take effect until next year (Washington Times, 7/2).
In response to the referendum proposed by Donnelly, Pan in a statement said that Californians "overwhelmingly support" the vaccination requirement.
He added, "I have spent my career campaigning to build healthier and safe communities, and I will continue that work by fighting any referendum that hurts Californians" ("KPCC News," KPCC, 7/1).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.