Utah Sen. Mike Lee — an outspoken critic of federal interference in state and local affairs — is leading an effort to block Washington, D.C., from allowing children as young as 11 years old to obtain vaccines without their parents’ knowledge.
The D.C. City Council passed such legislation amid a controversy about whether youth should be able to obtain government-recommended vaccines that their parents object to on religious grounds, such as one to prevent cancer caused by human papillomavirus that is sexually transmitted.
“The D.C. government’s vaccination bill is a threat to District children, their families, and the entire community,” Lee said in a written statement. “Young children do not know their medical histories, potential allergies, or possess adult judgment, which is the whole point of having parents make health care decisions on behalf of their kids.”
Federal law gives Congress 60 days to disapprove certain types of legislation passed by the D.C. City Council. Lee introduced a resolution that would strike down the proposed law.
“This new law goes so far as to hide children’s medical vaccinations from their own parents,” Lee said.
While Lee is an advocate of protecting federalism — which he has said “would allow each state to govern itself according to its own values” — he also said Congress also has a responsibility under federal law to oversee legislation by the District of Columbia and correct any overreaching.
“Congress has the responsibility of overseeing District policymaking, and to protect parents’ rights and children’s health. We should exercise that authority by disapproving this dangerous mistake,” he said.
Under the legislation, approved 12-1 by the D.C. Council, if a doctor determines that a minor is capable of informed consent, the minor would be able to seek government-recommended vaccinations their parents object to on religious grounds.
It requires that the doctor send the vaccination record in such cases to the child’s school, rather than to the parents, and to seek compensation without involving the parents.
D.C. City Council member Vincent C. Gray has said the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines for it gave extra impetus to pass the city legislation.
“One thing that we’ve learned from COVID, for example, is that policymakers, lawmakers, need to make science-driven decisions about public health policy,” Gray told the D.C. Council last month.
Council member Trayon White Sr. was the lone council member who opposed the legislation, and said at the time, “Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children. … Medical professionals and schools should not be permitted to coerce impressionable minors into procedures capable of causing injury or death behind their parents’ back.”