Parents are staging daily protests at the California state Capitol in Sacramento in the aftermath of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Senate Bills 276 and 714, which create new mechanisms for the government to regulate medical exemptions for vaccines.
Opponents say the new laws effectively wipe out the ability of parents to claim medical exemptions for their children and still send their children to school.
Another protest on Sept. 11—a parent “occupation” of the Capitol—marks another round of daily agitation by parents who call themselves “ex-vaxxers” to distance themselves from the “anti-vaxxer” label used for them by vaccine supporters. The parents repeatedly interrupted Sept. 9 Senate proceedings with chants from the balcony.
“Let history record that it was three California mothers, one of them a grandmother, who were arrested on Sept. 9, 2019, and began nonviolent civil disobedience for the vaccine freedom movement in America,” actor Rob Schneider wrote on Twitter.
California schools are barred by law from enrolling students who haven’t received mandatory vaccinations. Some parents who object to the vaccination requirement have turned to getting a doctor’s medical exemption for their children. The new bills allow the state to invalidate such an exemption if the doctor who issued it has ever faced disciplinary action.
In a Sept. 6 statement on his website, the sponsor of the bills, California state Rep. Richard Pan, explained the rationale for them: “As the latest measles outbreak threatens the country’s elimination status, California acted to keep children safe at school by abolishing non-medical exemptions. Unfortunately, a few unscrupulous physicians are selling inappropriate medical exemptions, and we need SB276 stop the corruption of medical exemptions that endanger children.”
The World Health Organization awards elimination status to a country that does not have measles outbreaks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics’ California Chief Kris Calvin, whose organization was one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said in a statement, “We are perfectly satisfied that this bill will satisfy its objective of making sure that bogus medical exemptions are uncovered … while protecting valid medical exemptions.”
‘Civil Liberties at Risk’
Erin Massengale, self-identified parent of a vaccine-injured son, was arrested Sept. 9 for chaining herself to the doors of the Capitol. She was back at the building Sept. 11 to protest further.
“We had other parents who volunteered to do a human chain in front of us in protest of this bill. We had other comrades on the north side of the building who did the same thing,” Massengale told The Epoch Times, noting that her arrest was a “sobering” experience. “I discussed with my family the day before the possibilities for Monday. It was a last-ditch effort for our movement. We’re not getting the press coverage that we need, and we knew that would do that.”
“They gave us three warnings. There were people arrested on the north side first. It’s a pretty serious commitment to get arrested. On the third warning, those standing with me until the very last moment walked away. (The police) asked me for the key to the bike lock. They went on to saw the bike cable off,” Massengale said, noting that she was in custody from around 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. She was first taken to the Capitol police office.
“We were there for about three hours. Our names were not in any system, so our spouses looking for us could not find us. We were taken to the Sacramento County jail, where we were booked and put in a holding cell for another couple hours. My fingerprints were not taken for another four hours,” Massengale recalled.
“As mothers with medically fragile children and patriots in general, we are backed in a corner. We have followed all of the rules and done everything we are asked to do. Regardless of how anyone feels about vaccinating or not vaccinating these are civil liberties at risk,” Massengale said, comparing the effort to stop pro-vaccine legislation to the game of Whack-A-Mole.
Jenny Hensley from the group California Freedom Keepers, a self-identified mother of two vaccine-injured children, helped organize the Sept. 11 protest activity.
“We are occupying the Capitol,” Hensley told The Epoch Times, noting that her organization represents roughly 40,000 parents and the movement is surging on the Instagram hashtag #JustAskingCampaign. “The governor signed it in record time because he wanted us to go away. But we’re not going away.”
“He was put between a rock and a hard place,” Hensley said of Newsom. “I am one of the only people able to get into a meeting with one of his staff. There were seven or eight of us who had an hour-long meeting with him. It’s nearly impossible to deal with this issue right now if you are a Democrat with aspirations to go to Washington, which he does.”
“We have insider information about the actual sympathy that he and his wife have for us and this movement. We knew that the power from Washington was going to get to him in the end. It wasn’t surprising but it still had a great emotional toll on us,” Hensley said, noting that she fears home-school parents will soon be targeted by new legislation.
“This is absolute segregation and discrimination,” Hensley said of the effort to ban children with medical exemptions from school.
Newsom said in a statement, “This legislation (SB 276) provides new tools to better protect public health, and does so in a way that ensures parents, doctors, public health officials and school administrators all know the rules of the road moving forward.”
Newsom helped moderate the bill after it initially imposed a state-run approval process for all school vaccine medical exemptions.
The legislation passed both chambers of the California Assembly without any Republican votes.