Over the years, California State Senator Richard Pan has been slowly chipping away at parental rights. In 2012 he introduced Assembly Bill 2109, which placed a stipulation on parents who exercised their right to a personal belief exemption to their children’s vaccine requirement at school. The bill required parents to meet with a health care practitioner or nurse of some kind to get a form filled out and learn about the benefits of vaccination. Then, in 2015 he introduced a bill completely eliminating the personal belief exemption altogether, requiring vaccination for all kids who want to attend any type of public or private school. The bill, SB 277, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.

If a parent does not believe that the risks of vaccination outweighs the benefits for any of the diseases (including ones that they may not be at risk for like hepatitis b), they are forced to home school, or move out of state. Now, his latest bill, which is up for debate and not yet signed into law, Senate Bill 18 has been known as the Children’s Bill of Rights, and in it Richard Pan’s goal is “to outline research-based standards for health, safety, education, well-being and family support for kids.” Will this bill force every single kid in the State of California to be fully vaccinated?

Existing California law provides for the care and welfare of children and youth in various contexts, including, but not limited to, child welfare services, foster care, health care, nutrition, homeless assistance, and education. The new bill would be an amendment to this, and would add a “Committee on Children and Youth.” If passed, the bill would have until November 30, 2020 for the committee to form its “plan”.

 Since Pan unveiled SB 18 in December 2016, some of the wording has changed. Gone is some of the paternalistic and moralistic language that signified Pan knew how to raise your kids better than you, but what remains is still that California wants to have a hand in how you raise your children. The bill is still an attack on parental rights with holes that could be filled with an agenda to mandate vaccinations for every single child in the state. A Bill of Rights for children is so ironic, since the passage of SB 277 has already denied equal educational opportunities for kids who are partially and fully unvaccinated. Senator Pan demonstrated not that he wants equal right for children, but that he wants all children to conform to his pharmaceutical agenda.

In a state where a whopping 96% of kindergartners were fully vaccinated in the 2016/2017 school year, I don’t understand the obsession with getting kids fully vaccinated. We are well above the threshold for herd immunity. Contrary to snopes, if the right to refuse a medical intervention is stripped away, then vaccine refusal could be seen as a form of child neglect. And yes, Child Protection Services would be involved in that scenario.

The most recent rewrite for SB 18 happened April 3, and would now have a Joint Legislative Committee on Children and Youth, with 18 appointed members who would decide things like:

“California’s Promise to its Children and Youth,” a framework for the care and welfare of the state’s children and youth in various contexts, including, but not limited to, health care, nutrition, homeless assistance, education, and foster care, to serve as an example to other states by raising the standard of living for California’s children and youth.

Accessible child care, early learning, quality educational and job training opportunities, comprehensive health care, and well-supported families are necessary to ensure the productive potential of all Californians, yet there has been no comprehensive effort to ensure that California’s children and youth have access to those necessities and opportunities.

SB 18 is not the only child friendly bill, but it is the only one rousing suspicions of concerned parents. These are just bills aimed at benefitting kids in clear ways, with no moralistic undertones, or attempt at establishing “research-based health standards”:

Senate Bill 439 promotes rehabilitation for children under 12 who have committed a crime and are too young for juvenile hall.

Assembly Bill 1520, authored and introduced earlier this year by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood), seeks to reduce the percentage of children living below the poverty line in California by half by fiscal year 2039.

Assembly Bill 1685 provides care for children with serious emotional and behavioral disturbances that provides comprehensive, coordinated care.

Senate Bill 250 is the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017. It would require schools to ensure that any student whose bill remains unpaid is not shamed or treated any differently than a student whose bills are paid in full. School employees and volunteers would be prohibited from disciplining the child, or denying or delaying a meal.

As A Voice for Choice Advocacy stated in their examination of the proposed law, “over 500 welfare and institutions, health and safety, education, public health, penal and family codes already exist, that currently address all aspects of SB18’s so-called rights.”

The Bigger Picture

It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies have lobbyists and give money to politicians to influence legislation that in turn benefits them. But it should be a conflict of interest. Senator Pan has received a lot of money for his vaccine bills. Back in 2015, interest groups in support of SB 277 spent over $3.3 million in total contributions to California Senators, which was 56 times more than all opponents to the bill. The main author of SB 277 Senator Pan received the most funding: $425,808 for the ballot measure alone. His individual campaign contributions for that 2014 election cycle reached over $1.36 million.

But pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones who benefit from mandatory vaccines. A significant portion of Pan’s political contributions comes from the nation’s largest public services employees union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Because the union has many chapters throughout the state (and the country), it avoids campaign contribution limits as a single union, and was able to give more than $55,000 to Senator Pan.

Senator Pan has a long history with AFSCME. Not only is he a member of the union (and possibly has his pension with them), but the union also sponsored three bills for the Senator in 2014. AFSCME has a lot of money to spend, and is a major player in lobbying and campaign contributions to politicians, having given more than $128 million to 3,891 politicians over the last 25 years, according to Follow the Money. Not all labor unions have such hefty political spending budgets, but AFSCME does.

The AFSCME Employee Pension Plan is in the big league of pension plans. It is worth over $1.7 trillion dollars (yup I said trillion), and has major stock investments in the very pharmaceutical companies that coincidentally also contributed to Senator Richard Pan for his 2014 election. Drug companies like Abbott Laboratories, Eli Lilly & Co, Johnson & Johnson, Allergen, AbbVie, Amgen and Pfizer, for example, all contributed to Senator Pan’s campaign (as well as Governor Jerry Brown’s) and many of these companies are or have been included in AFSCME Pension Plan’s portfolio of stock holdings. Some of the investment management firms used by AFSCME are amongst the top investors in the very pharmaceutical companies who manufacture the specific vaccines that are mandated in SB 277: Pzena Investment Management and State Street and State Street Global invest in Merck, Boston Company Asset invest in Sanofi Pasteur, Winslow Capital invest in GlaxoSmithKline.

These pharmaceutical companies bring in billions in revenue every year from their products, but their stock brings in billions for those who invest in them. There isn’t just one market, there’s two. Mandating vaccines is like ensuring your product will be purchased by millions and millions of people, every day, every week, and every year, which makes their stock go up, which makes their shareholders happier and richer.

And here we are, moms and dads bringing our kids to their pediatrician and doing what we think is right, not realizing we are pawns in a larger enterprise. To drug companies and lobbyists, your child’s autism or food allergy is just another lifelong Abilify or EpiPen subscriber. How long did it take Big Tobacco to be real with us?

We didn’t want mandatory vaccinations with SB 277 and we don’t want it with SB 18. Mississippi is a state which has removed all exemptions except medical, and as a result, it had the highest vaccination coverage among children in Kindergarten for the 2013/2014 school year out of the entire country, according to the CDC. And you know what? It also has the highest infant mortality rate in the country, and the most premature deaths. Mississippi may have fewer cases of pertussis (along with Florida, Louisiana, Hawaii and West Virginia suggesting that perhaps geographical location factors like humid tropical air has an effect of the spread of that cold) but the state has the most deaths from cancer and cardiovascular causes, and more diabetes, than any state in the nation. Clearly, more vaccinations does not equal more health. The mythology that vaccinations protect you from disease, or increase health, need to be broken down and analyzed for what they are: false beliefs.

For those of us who believe that our immune systems aren’t defective, but rather perfectly designed, and that an intact system actually paves the way for a longer, healthier life, let us exercise our right to informed consent and ban all mandatory vaccinations.