In the name of protecting kids from parents who don’t care about their children, California state senators decided to approve a bill last week giving teens starting at the age of 12 the right to decide when and if they receive any U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccination.
Several Republicans gave impassioned pleas for legislators to consider the short and long-term consequences of chipping away the protective role parents play in the lives of their children. But after almost an hour of debate, those pleas were not enough to prevent SB 866 from passing. Senators moved the bill on to the Assembly, but only by a single vote, 21 to 8, with 11 not voting or absent.
“This is but another of a continuum of legislation to undermine parental authority and parental responsibility,” said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Yuba City). “Parents should always be involved in decisions about their children.”
Two other Republican senators, both mothers with teenage children, pleaded with legislators not to give young teens the ability to say yes to any FDA approved vaccine without parental consent. Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Murrieta) pointed out that some teens have had bad reactions to vaccines and need parental input to know of past allergic reactions.
Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh (R-Redlands), mother of three, agreed that 12-year-olds need their parents help when making medical decisions. “This bill would empower vulnerable populations of children to consent to medical treatment that they likely know little about without the guidance or knowledge of a caregiver or parent,” she argued. “Federal law requires parents to be provided information on vaccine side affects and how to detect side affects. … How are parents going to recognize reaction in their kids if they don’t even know if they are vaccinated?”
The author of the bill Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), father of no children, defended SB 866 noting the state law already lets minors make a variety of medical decision all by themselves. He listed the medical decisions minors 12 and older can currently consent to without parental consent or knowledge including receiving HPV and Hepatitis B vaccines, all sexual health treatment, some mental health treatment, domestic violence and sexual assault treatment, and treatment for drug and alcohol problems.
He also explained that minors at any age can consent to birth control and abortions. “Yet today a teenager can’t go in and get a flu shot,” Wiener complained.
Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), mother of two step children, said SB 866 wasn’t for parents who love and care for their kids, but for parents who don’t care about the wellbeing of their children. “We have a responsibility to legislate safety,” she argued. There are “bad parents among us” and “some really do need legislative circumvention like this” so kids get the medicine they need to be safe and protect their own health.
But Ochoa Bogh, asked legislators to think about the values the bill promotes when it removes parental authority for all children, no matter the type of home the come from.