Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Win/Lose of Deadline Day

Today was deadline day. Since I arrived at the Capitol this morning, I've been going non-stop. While it may consist of just sitting in meetings and asking questions or giving comments, it is nonetheless mentally and emotionally taxing.

Today, the Mississippi Taxpayer Transparency Act passed the Appropriations Committee. This would create a website that would put all state contracts, subcontracts, and grants online, as well as provide information on bond projects and revenues. The Dept. of Finance and Administration would oversee the sight. Over course, their objection is to the work and how much it will cost. Two states most recently (Missouri and Kansas) have done it for no additional cost and using existing staff. This is a big deal. Taxpayers could have instant access to these documents. Transparency allows us to the have conversation about government efficiency and spending. I'm pleased that most of my freshman class has also sponsored the bill.

However, I also suffered a setback today. HB 1365, which is an identical bill of my HB 774, would grant exemptions to school-mandated vaccinations for children who have a certificate from a doctor that states such vaccination would be injurious to the well-being of the child.

HB 1365 was stripped down to an appeal process for children with autism to try and get exempt from school-mandated vaccinations. The new stripped-down version of HB 1365 passed the Public Health Committee 15-5, but then failed in the Education Committee 11-10. I can't even begin to state the outpouring of emails, phone calls and letters of stories of parents whose child has been injured by a vaccination. Mississippi is one of two states who do not allow for a religious exemption. 48 states allow this. 20 allow for a philosophical exemption. And there are children who have suddenly been injured after receiving a vaccination, or have been diagnosed with autism shortly after vaccination, whereas before they were perfectly normal. I don't know the specifics of the science. No one does. But there is no doubt there is a correlation for some children. Obviously, the State Medical Association, Dr. Ed Thompson and other pharmaceutical companies vehemently oppose my position- and that's fine. I represent parents in my district whose children have been injured, and honestly, I believe they are right. I think we will be proved correct in the future.

The whole argument that opening the door for these few hundred children with autism could result in some sort of outbreak is ridiculous. Tell that to the other 48 states with exemptions for religious beliefs. I haven't heard of any new outbreaks of measles or diphtheria. And Mississippi cannot get a doctor-approved exemption for children with autism. The other argument was that Mississippi is leading the nation in terms of immunizations. Well, guess what- we also lead the nation in child mortality. So our wonderful immunization success rate isn't curing the real issue after all.

In the end, I was grateful to have bipartisan support in the Education Committee, especially from Reps. Sherra Hillman Lane, Bob Evans and Brandon Jones.


Kellie said...

Thank you so much Rep. Barker for standing up for what's right in this issue. Parents should have the right to make medical decisions for their children. At the very least, the state board of health should NOT be able to override a doctor's exemption, and like you said, the assertion that an exemption will bring outbreaks of disease is ridiculous as proven in the 48 other states.

John Leek said...

Both sound like good stands. I agree with transparency (as most should) and giving doctors and parents the ability to have ultimate say where what is "right" isn't clear.

Thanks again.

Morgnmc said...

Rep. Barker,
Thank you so much for supporting vaccine waivers for children with autism. I commend you for your willingness to speak out on this issue. As a parent of an affected child, I am tremendously disappointed that this bill did not pass. However, I am hopeful because of individuals like yourself who have joined with us in fighting to protect our children from harmful vaccines. I am confident that together we can make changes in Mississippi. We will never give up. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Barbra said...

As we say in my house, "Thank you, from the berry bottom of my heart."
Though the vaccination bill did not get passed, as the original version or the watered-down version, the vote was close. That tells me we have serious hope. We are on the move and getting better organized and with advocates like you, this will pass in the full version this very next time. Ever the optimist! I have a son with autism and one without. Neither may safely have further vaccinations. I welcome the reinstatement of my full rights as a parent, to save my children's bodies from what harms them. Please keep fighting for your constituents, and consequently, the rest of us. When they may be able, my children will thank you, too.

Tim said...

Thank-you, Toby Barker!

Every point you make in this article is spot-on. I applaud your willingness to see this issue for what it really is - individual rights. The "science" is only all in if, like Thompson and Co., your view of what constitutes evidence matches theirs, i.e..., a population-based statistical morass called epidemiology. When the evidence is observational and based on individual clinical cases, that is not evidence at all - merely anecdotes, stories we like to tell, family lore if you will.

The State's compelling interest on this issue, as handed down by the 1979 MS Supreme Court in Brown v Stone, was never intended, IMHO, to be enforced in such a fascist manner. I actually agree with a couple of prongs in that 1979 decision.

First, as it relates to the protection of MS children in general, through sound epidemiological methods of controlling outbreaks/epidemics of infectious diseases, the State can and should have a role. But forced universal vaccination of the entire population should be a last resort, not the first option.

The 1979 ruling also declared the religious exemption language in the statute unconstitutional. I agree completely. It was. But their remedy, simply striking it altogether, violated (...again IMHO...) the spirit and intent of the law, and was in fact arbitrary and capricious. Instead, constitutionally consistent exemption language should have been composed to replace the unconstitutional phrase. Obviously, the legislature intended for exemption options to exist!

Sorry for the brief rant. Again, THANK-YOU TOBY BARKER!

Tim Smith

Sarah said...

Thank you, Rep. Barker for your help in our fight to protect our children from the harm inflicted on them by vaccines. It is alarming that our state does not heed the opinion of doctors in individual cases of vaccine damage. Every child is different. There is no "one size fits all" in anything as far as medicine is concerned. It is not right that our children be harmed by vaccines, and it is not right that once harm occurs, our parental rights to protect our children are overruled. I hope that together we are able to change Mississippi Law to protect our children rather than inflict further damage on them.