The Washington, D.C., City Council passed an ordinance last fall that allows schoolchildren as young as 11 years old to get vaccinated without their parents’ consent. That breach of parental rights resulted in a lawsuit filed just recently by several parents of school-age children in the District’s schools.
The recent ordinance, known as the District of Columbia Minor Consent for Vaccinations Amendment Act of 2020 (Minor Consent Act), would allow minors, beginning at age 11, to obtain vaccinations for HPV, meningitis and COVID-19, among others, without their parents’ knowledge or consent. Although the District’s existing ordinances allow parents to opt out of required vaccines on behalf of their children for religious or medical reasons, this new ordinance goes behind the backs of parents who might otherwise object.
In fact, the ordinance requires insurance companies covering payments for any vaccines received without parental permission to issue two vaccine records: one to the school showing the vaccines; the other to parents showing no vaccines received.
According to the lawsuit, “the Minor Consent Act subverts the right and duty of parents to make informed decisions about whether their children should receive vaccinations, by both depriving them of the opportunity to make those decisions and by concealing from parents that their children have been asked to consent to vaccinations or may have indeed been vaccinated.”
The parents allege at least three legal reasons why the Minor Consent Act should be blocked by the courts.
First, the Minor Consent Act violates the National Vaccine Act, passed by Congress, that requires parents to be in the loop regarding their children’s vaccines. The national law sets up a compensation fund for those suffering adverse reactions to vaccines, but it also sets time deadlines for being able to prove such adverse reactions.
By keeping parents from knowing their children have been vaccinated, the Minor Consent Act jeopardizes the ability of the parents to file claims and receive compensation under the national law.
Second, the parents allege that the D.C. ordinance violates their religious free exercise rights protected under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by infringing their ability to raise their children in accordance with their religious faith.
Third, the lawsuit asserts that parental rights to make decisions regarding the care, custody and control of their children are recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of cases as a fundamental constitutional right guaranteed by the 5th and 14th Amendments.
The parents are asking a federal judge to declare the Minor Consent Act illegal and unconstitutional, and to issue an injunction blocking its operation.