Calif. bill draws fire for letting children consent to STD vaccines

A student recieves a vaccination Credit James Gathany CDC CNA US Catholic News 6 27 11 A student recieves a vaccination. | James Gathany/CDC

Public action is needed to defeat a California bill that would allow children  as young as 12 to consent to Gardasil vaccines without parental permission. Opponents say the proposal is a violation of parents’ rights and is motivated by the desire to prepare children for sexual activity.

“We’re encouraging people to spread the word, to write letters to the editor, to contact state senators,” said Bill May, chairman of the San Francisco-based Catholics for the Common Good. “This bill has not received very much publicity in the mainstream press.”

“It’s a blatant violation of parental rights to put children in position of being coerced into receiving vaccinations that they don’t need and could jeopardize their health,” May told CNA on Aug. 29.

“Basically, children have no defenses against an adult coming and saying ‘this is good for you, and you should have it, and not let your parents know.’

“How can a child evaluate risks?” he asked.

The proposed law, AB 499, is sponsored by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). A vote on it is expected sometime this week.

The proposal would allow children 12 years-old and older to consent to Gardasil vaccinations and other methods to prevent sexually transmitted diseases without telling their parents.

May said that the bill’s emancipation of minors to consent to such treatments presumes that organizations like Planned Parenthood or other adults are going to approach children and “suggest they be vaccinated and make an argument for why it is important for them.”

He warned that the bill has nothing to protect children from those with a profit incentive or other incentives to try to talk children into being vaccinated to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

“Part of it is to prepare them to have sexual activity, which is not a message most parents want to get out at that age,” May said.

The Senate Appropriations Committee had postponed the bill over concerns about its costs. If minors do not need to obtain parental consent, the state will have to pay for the vaccines. A committee analysis estimated the costs at $75,000 to $155,000 per 100 children vaccinated.

However, May thought the proposal was likely to pass this time unless there is “a huge public outcry.”

“Serious questions have been raised about this bill in every committee that it has gone through. The questions have not been addressed and the votes have been straight party line,” he reported.

If the bill passes, opponents will seek a veto from the governor.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles also opposes the bill. He said it represents “a dangerous government intrusion into parents’ rights.” The bill would undermine parents’ duty to “educate their children in moral values” and to be responsible for their children’s physical and spiritual well-being.

“By passing this bill, in effect, government would be encouraging young people to engage in activities that are contrary to their parents’ moral values — and then to lie about it or keep it secret from their parents,” he said in a July 7 column for The Tidings.

“Children are not mature enough to think through the consequences of complicated medical decisions. This legislation would have children face these decisions without parental guidance — and under pressure from adults and corporate interests that have financial and other motives to promote these medications.”

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