The Oregon House today took a long-awaited vote on House Bill 3063, which removes parents' rights to exempt their children from vaccinations for religious or philosophical reasons. The bill would exclude un-vaccinated children from school and extra-curricular activities (except those who have a medical reason not to be vaccinated).
After a series of passionate speeches from supporters and opponents, the bill passed by a 35 to 25 margin.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland), a chief sponsor of the bill, told his colleagues about the vast increase in life expectancy over the course of the 20th century: from about 50 years in 1900 to 80 in the year 2000.
A retired health policy researcher, Greenlick put his rationale in simple terms. "We owe our children the ability to survive and therefore we should immunize them," Greenlick said.
Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer), a leading opponent of the bill, called it a "hammer blower to our social fabric." Post and other opponents argued that the bill deprives families of the freedom to make their own choices and ostracizes those who choose not to vaccinate by forcing them either to enroll their children in online education or home-school them, all because of what Post called a "manufactured crisis."
Although the bill had bi-partisan chief sponsorship from Greenlick and a handful of Democratic colleagues as well as two Republicans, state Rep. Cheri Helt (R-Bend) and state Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), the House vote fell mostly along party lines.
Two Democrats, state Reps. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) and Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro), spoke against the bill. Marsh expressed concerns that the bill extended far beyond the MMR vaccine given for measles and was thus overly broad. Sollman said she supported vaccines generally but thought the penalty—exclusion from schools—outweighed the risks. Fellow Democrats Paul Evans (D-Salem), Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro) and Courtney Neron (D-Wilsonville) also voted against the bill. Republican Rep. Kim Wallan (R-Medford) joined Helt in voting for it.
The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.