Despite Arrests, Protests Continue As California Exemption Bill Awaits Gov Newsom’s Decision

By Jefferey Jaxen

After early hesitation about the bill and calls for amendments, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office appears to be signaling a direction. On Friday, the LA Times claimed that Senate Bill 276 (SB 276) amendments sought by Gov Newsom had been agreed upon. The article states:

The agreement between state Sen. Richard Pan and Newsom calls for the governor to sign SB 276, which has passed the Legislature, and for revisions to be placed in separate legislation, SB 714, which requires approval by the Assembly and Senate by Sept. 13. Newsom’s office said the governor will sign SB 276 once the Legislature passes SB 714 with his changes. Legislative leaders said Friday that they support the new changes under the deal.

Questioning the need for SB 276’s newly created bureaucracy when the Medical Board of California (MBC) already exists to investigate physicians for writing questionable vaccine exemptions, Senator Andreas Borgeas stated, “I don’t understand why we are delegating the responsibility to oversee these medical reviews to a bureaucratic body when the medical board has the appropriate jurisdiction and the expertise to review whether these exemptions have been frivolously dolled out.”  

SB 276 was pushed with the premise of cracking down on doctors who sell fraudulent medical exemptions. However, in a bizarre move the bill’s principle co-author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, recently took to Twitter to admit that no fraudulent medical exemptions had been found despite the bill being written to address the alleged ‘problem.’ 

One would also be led to believe the MBC, in investigating doctors writing fraudulent exemptions, would have their hands full and need a separate SB 276-created bureaucratic body to assist them. Yet, at this time Dr. Bob Sears is the only California doctor to be disciplined regarding vaccine exemptions, according to Carlos Villatoro, a medical board spokesman.

Since its introduction in February of 2019, the people of California have greeted SB 276 with sustained protest. In a final rally before the bill’s uncommonly quick movement through the Assembly and Senate, over a thousand people gathered in Sacramento on the steps of the state capitol in protest. Speeches by HighWire host and founder of the Informed Consent Action Network Del Bigtree, Children’s Health Defense founder Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and others drew media attention from local and national outlets. 

Protests moved from the capitol steps to within Assembly proceedings after SB 276 was voted out of the suspense file. Protests again erupted seconds after the bill passed the Senate last week on the way to the governor’s desk where it currently awaits its fate. Lasting hours, many Californians took the protest from the Senate hearing to the doors of Gov Newsom’s office during that time. 

On Friday, protesters refused to leave the capitol building upon closing prompting them to be arrested by the California Highway Patrol (CHP). 

A nurse from San Diego chronicled the event in which she was later ‘unarrested’ and released. 

Several Senators and Assembly members expressed views during the SB 276 hearings in solidarity with the ideals of protestors. 

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi said during Tuesday’s Assembly floor vote that SB 276 is “going to have a chilling impact on legitimate medical exemptions that’ll lead to bad public policy that may result in children being injured.

Voting with what he deemed “strong opposition” to the bill, Senator Mike Morrell stated, “It does concern me that this body believes perhaps they know more than parents and a doctor.

Senator Brian Dahle testified stating “I think it’s not really about vaccinations…This is about personal freedoms and the right of a parent to be able to make what they think is the best choice for their children.” 

While Assemblyman Devon J. Mathis stated “I don’t have any faith in any of these agencies getting any more money or giving more responsibility to them – especially over something as sensitive as vaccines. The government doesn’t belong in that relationship…it never has” 

Adding to the controversy around SB 276 last week was the release of a new video by Advocates for Physicians’ Rights (AFPR). Confirming the concerns of many families who have reported an abandonment by the medical community when seeking a valid medical vaccine exemption for their child, the video paints the reality of a shockingly dysfunctional California medical system.

The video reveals what amounts to unethical, non-public, standing orders within the offices of over 800 physicians to refuse issuance of medical exemptions for a valid health condition. The condition, as told to the physician’s offices in the video, was that of an anaphylactic reaction from a vaccination. A severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) is recognized by medical literature, regulatory agencies and law as meeting the standards of care to receive exemption status. 

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, who sets vaccine policy in the U.S., lists anaphylaxis under the heading  “Contraindications and precautions to commonly used vaccines.” 

The disconnect between policy and reality was revealed at the SB 276 Senate hearing which saw author Richard Pan dance around the question when asked by Senator Shannon Grove what would constitute a medical exemption. Pan eventually answered, “If your childs [sic] had an anaphylactic reaction or is allergic, or is allergic to a component of vaccine, that would earn you a medical exemption.”   

In a 2018 commentary published in the American Academy of Pediatrics Journal Pediatrics Richard Pan, alongside law professor Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, argued that “physicians are fulfilling an administrative role” and that the granting of medical exemptions are “not the practice of medicine but a delegation of state.

However, reality once again contradicts the intentions and beliefs of how the medical system should be operating as Pan and Rubinstein’s reasoning for their statements were based on their belief that “because physicians already evaluate patients for existing health conditions and can identify which of their patients warrant medical exemptions.

The recent AFPR video proves Pan wrong on both counts by showing that a parent seeking a valid exemption can’t get in the door, let alone have their child evaluated for health conditions that warrant a medical exemption by a physician. 

Further, sustained protests are planned for Monday and beyond as California parents show their opposition towards SB 276 as well as their support for Gov Newsom to veto the bill.

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