Bill to allow minors to be vaccinated without parental consent is withdrawn
A bill to allow minors to consent to vaccines without parental permission will not move forward this year, with the author of the measure saying Wednesday that it remained short of votes heading into the final day of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 866 by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) was among a handful of bills introduced by Democratic lawmakers who formed a Vaccine Work Group this year focused on introducing bills to improve vaccination rates and reduce COVID-19 misinformation.
The bill would have allowed children 15 and older to be vaccinated, including against COVID-19, without a parent’s consent or knowledge. The legislation initially sought to allow children as young as 12 to make that decision when it passed the Senate in May, but Wiener said it was clear the bill faced an uncertain path in the Assembly unless he raised the age.
On Wednesday, Wiener said the bill was “several votes short of 41” needed to pass, with no “viable path for these final few votes.”
“Sadly, months of harassment and misinformation — including death threats against me and teen advocates — by a small but highly vocal and organized minority of anti-vaxxers have taken their toll,” Wiener said in a statement. “The health of young people will suffer as a result. SB 866 did nothing more than empower young people to protect their own health, even if their parents have been brain-washed by anti-vax propaganda or are abusive or neglectful.”
Opponents have argued that SB 866 would interfere with a parent’s right to choose what’s best for their child and that, in the case of a rare serious reaction, could lead to a delay in treatment if the child does not disclose they were vaccinated. While vaccine bills have attracted intense opposition from groups that oppose mandates in general, Wiener’s bill received pushback from some of his Democratic colleagues in the Assembly as well.
Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton) previously said the bill went too far in excluding parents from medical decisions.
“As a father of four younger daughters, I would appreciate being a part of this process for them, and believe all parents should have the right to be a part of it as well for their own children,” he said.
Opposition groups had planned to protest the bill Wednesday on the final day for lawmakers to send bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom, but instead celebrated outside the Capitol after learning the bill was dead for the year. Those groups called the bill an “attempt to pass extreme laws that remove parental rights and endanger children” and said raising the age from 12 to 15 did not nullify those concerns.
“The bill was just so overreaching and egregious,” said Nicole Pearson, an attorney and founding partner of Facts Law Truth Justice advocacy group. “Parents are truly the only ones who have the information that is necessary to give legally informed consent.”
Under California law, a parent must consent to their child being vaccinated. An exception exists for inoculations that protect against sexually transmitted diseases, such as the human papillomavirus and hepatitis B vaccines, which do not require parental permission for children 12 and older. The state already grants anyone of reproductive age, including minors, to obtain birth control or an abortion without a parent’s consent.
Wiener said his bill would have helped teens whose parents work long hours or who are adamantly anti-vaccine.
“When we first introduced SB 866, it was unclear if the bill would make it out of a single committee,” Wiener said in a statement. “Instead, the bill passed the full Senate and made it all the way to the Assembly floor, coming within just a few votes of passage. The anti-vaxxers may have prevailed in this particular fight, but the broader fight for science and health continues. This coalition isn’t going anywhere.”
Lawmakers sent Newsom another vaccine bill, Assembly Bill 1797 by Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego), which would allow California school officials to more easily check student vaccine records by expanding access to a statewide immunization database.
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