Yesterday, we lost our right to a religious exemption from vaccine mandates to attend school in New York. Our elected officials decided to discard a fundamental human right we have always had, and 46 other states continue to have, when the Assembly voted 77 to 53 to pass Jeffery Dinowitz’s Assembly Bill A2371a, and the Senate voted 36 to 26 to pass Brad Hoylman’s Senate Bill S2994. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bills within hours of the floor votes.
The new law applies to all schools; public, private, parochial, and charter, including daycare, pre-k, kindergarten, and K-12. All students will be required to get the required shots by June 20 of 2020. We have asked a group of lawyers to review the law and provide further guidance which we hope to have for you shortly.
We are not giving up. We are not moving to Texas. And we are not vaccinating our kids.
We are dedicated to continuing the fight for our rights to protect our children. Please help us continue fighting for you by making a donation here: https://grouprev.com/autismactionnetwork2019
These are our next steps:
- A team of lawyers have been studying the bill and how to attack it on civil rights and other grounds, and we expect suits to be filled shortly,
- Students with IEPS and 504 plans still have a right to those services regardless of whether they are allowed to attend school or not. We are working on plans to assist parents in fighting for their children’s right to a free and appropriate public education,
- We will be fighting to reform New York’s incredibly restrictive medical exemption laws. Across the US the average rate of students with medical exemptions is 1% to 2%. In New York it is less than 1/10th of 1%. Thousands of parents across the state have had the experience of a physician telling them that their child should never get another vaccine, and then told to go get a religious exemption because the doctor is afraid to write a medical exemption. Fortunately, Senate Health Committee Chair Gustavo Rivera has a bill to correct this problem, Senate Bill S477, and we will be pushing hard to pass this before June 20, 2020.
- And we will be fighting to stop the existing New York bills to make Gardasil and annual flu shots mandatory in New York, and bills to allow vaccines without parental knowledge or consent.
One flipped vote cost us our exemption
A truism of New York politics is that all the power rests with “Three guys in a room.” Now slightly modified to “two guys and a woman in a room.” The three being Governor Cuomo, Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins. Beginning several weeks ago the three started putting heavy pressure on the legislators to pass these bills. And we saw the worst of Albany play out in full view of the public yesterday. See this article and video: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2019/06/13...
The pressure from the “two guys and woman” culminated yesterday in a vote in the Assembly Health Committee. The following is hard to believe, but we saw it happen, and it is on video. Richard Gottfried, the Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, has said repeatedly that when Dinowitz had the necessary 14 votes to report the bill out of the Health Committee a vote would be held. In the meeting yesterday when all members of the Committee voted the final tally was 13 “No” votes and 13 “Yes” votes. Normally that would have killed the bill. But not yesterday. Once it became clear the vote would not allow the bill to go forward. Chair Gottfried made a brief statement about the need to allow a floor debate of the bill, which everybody there knew would result in the bill being passed, and Nader Sayegh, a freshmen Assemblymember and the junior member of the committee, changed his: “No” vote to a “Yes,” which allowed the bill to go to the floor.
Tradition in Albany is that when a bill is sent to the floor of the Assembly it will pass, and since it is a foregone conclusion that the bill will go forward, most members jump on the bandwagon and vote for the bill because that is usually the politically safest move to make. But not yesterday. The bill won by the barest margin, 76 votes are the minimum number of votes a bill can get and still pass, and A2371 got 77 votes, 53 “no” votes and any extraordinary 20 members chose not to vote. We will share the official vote count when it is released.
We were told by legislators and staffers time and time again that they have never received the volume of letters, documents, emails, office visits and telephone calls as they have on this bill. Legislators from all parts of the state said the overwhelming majority of communications they received opposed the bill. Staffers in the office of a member at the highest level of leadership in the Assembly said they could not recall any communications in favor of the bill. You did everything possible to defeat this bill. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And this is far from over.