A federal judge has blocked Washington, DC, from enforcing a law that would have allowed minors to be vaccinated without parental notification and consent.
Judge Trevor McFadden announced his decision on March 18 against the Minor Consent to Vaccinations Amendments Act (MCA), according to the Washington Post. If implemented, it would have allowed children as young as 11 to be able to receive any vaccine without parental consent.
McFadden agreed with the parents who said the act would have violated their right to religious freedom. In his ruling, the judge said the law was “specifically aimed at religious parents”, rendering it unconstitutional.
“A court may find that an apparently neutral law is not neutral in its application if the law covertly targets religious beliefs,” McFadden wrote in his decision. “Because the MCA ‘references a religious practice’ and is therefore not ostensibly neutral, the Court need not ask whether the law covertly targets religion.”
The ruling makes it clear that just as affected parents have the right not to vaccinate their children, those who do are just as law abiding.
“Vaccines are ‘one of the greatest achievements’ of public health in the 20th century,” McFadden wrote, using verbiage from another court ruling. “States and the district are free to encourage individuals, including children, to get vaccinated. But they cannot violate the [National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act] Congress program created. And they can’t trample on the Constitution.”
Had it been considered legally binding, the MCA would have allowed minors “able to meet [an] informed consent standard” to receive any vaccination that meets the standards of the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Vaccinations include, but are not limited to, currently available COVID-19 vaccines.
A similar bill is being debated in California. Newsweek previously reported that this bill, Senate Bill 866, would allow vaccine providers to administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to children age 12 or older without explicit permission from their parents or guardians. . Currently, minors can be vaccinated against HPV or Hepatitis B without parental consent.
“Giving young people the autonomy to receive lifesaving vaccines, regardless of their parents’ beliefs or work schedules, is essential for their physical and mental health,” said California State Senator Scott Wiener, co-author of the bill.
“Nearly one million teenagers in California are unvaccinated, and for many of them it’s because their parents refuse to have them vaccinated or they haven’t yet.”
Update 3/21/22, 3:32 PM ET: This story has been updated with additional information.