[Update 11/18: The Council voted 10 to 3 yesterday to pass this dangerous bill. It will be going to the mayor for signing and then sit for a review period before Congress, as described below.]
The DC bill that would allow 11 year olds to consent to vaccinations was scheduled for second reading and final vote yesterday, November 10, but was postponed until next week, the 17th. This bill poses a serious threat to parental rights and to the safety of children and could set a dangerous precedent for states to follow.
Harmful to Children
Introduced last year by Councilmember Cheh, B23-171, the “Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2019,” would allow children as young as 11 to give legal consent to receive a vaccination that their parent has opted out of on religious or other grounds.
[Editor’s note: Read our earlier release about this bill here for more info.]
The bill ostensibly limits consent to only those children who are deemed able to make an informed decision, but the medical provider offering the vaccination, not the parent, will be making that judgment call. This creates a conflict of interest for the doctors and puts the child at risk of authority-figure coercion, to which children are already especially susceptible.
B23-171 also restricts information about the child’s vaccination status from getting to parents. In the interest of protecting children from abuse by parents angry about their decision, the bill prohibits the insurance company from sending an Explanation of Benefits, it prohibits the vaccinating provider from placing the vaccine in the child’s medical record, it requires them to instead notify the child’s school directly, and it prohibits the school from releasing that information to the parents.
So if a child should suffer an adverse reaction or a vaccine-related injury, neither the parents nor the child’s regular physician would have any way of knowing the child had even received the vaccine.
Such a policy would not only violate the constitutional and natural right of parents to care for their children, but it would also put the lives of impressionable young children at risk. Protecting children from these dangers is the very reason loving parents exercise such rights in the first place!
The DC Process
A bill proposed by the DC Council must be read and voted on twice, then go to the mayor, who may veto the bill. If the bill is not vetoed, or if the council subsequently overrides a veto, then the bill goes to Congress for a review period of 30 legislative days. During that time, Congress can veto the bill with a joint resolution that receives a majority vote in each chamber, which is then signed by the president.
Given the veto-proof majority on the first B23-171 vote, we do not anticipate the council voting it down next Tuesday, nor a mayoral veto. So we are ramping up efforts to get Congress to pass a veto resolution. We have a majority champion in the Senate ready to go, and we are working with allies and volunteers to secure a majority champion in the House to do the same.
Unfortunately, time is short, so we will have to act fast—if the bill passes next week, as expected.
Why the Delay?
I would love to tell you this postponement came about because the Council heard so much pushback they are afraid to move the bill forward. Sadly, that is not the case.
Council Member Gray proposed an amendment to add a sentence to the bill in order to notify insurance companies that they are not to send an Explanation of Benefits to parents. Without his amendment, insurance companies were to keep parents in the dark, but no one was responsible to tell them that. This amendment simply makes sure they “get the memo.”
However, Council Member Gray was absent from yesterday’s meeting and could not answer questions about his amendment. His absence alone caused the week-long delay.
Setting a Dangerous Precedent
If DC B23-171 survives the legislative review period—if we fail to get a veto resolution passed—it will become law in DC, setting a precedent for other states to follow.
And they will follow. We already saw similar bills introduced in a half-dozen states in 2020, though these involved older ages and had no provisions for hiding the vaccination from parents. If the DC bill passes, though, I have no doubt at least some of these will come back in 2021, following the DC example.
To prevent the spread of this legislative blight, we must stop this DC bill from becoming law. So be prepared, because in the next few weeks, we are going to need to call on you to reach out to your senators and member of Congress and urge them to support the veto resolution.
We will know more once we have a sponsor in the House and once Mayor Bowser acts on the bill, and we will keep you updated.
Thank you for standing ready with us to halt this dangerous legislation and keep our children safe.