Stupid Dumb Measles Bullsh*t, Texas And Montana Republican Editions
If we lived in a perfect world, there would be some kind of statute preventing stupid politicians from basing legislation on "science" they've made up themselves. Think of how much time we would all save on abortion issues! So much time! I, for one, would never again have to write another "Oh my god, no one is killing newborn babies" explainer, which would be pretty sweet.
Aside from abortion, the number one issue for people who don't know what the hell they are talking about is vaccines. People who don't know anything about vaccines feel very confident that they are the ones who should be going around enacting legislation based on shit they have made up themselves, which is rather inconvenient for the rest of us! Especially those who have immuno-compromised children who need to rely on herd immunity to stay alive. The entire gist of the anti-vaccine movement is "Other people need to die to protect my right to be stupid."
Texas is in the middle of a measles outbreak at the moment, so naturally a couple of Republican legislators have decided it is a great time to put out a bill making it easier for parents to get vaccine exemptions for their children, and prevent the state health department from tracking exemptions. This means that it will be more difficult for health officials to pinpoint where outbreaks are coming from and thus work to curb them, and that sane parents won't be able to use that information to decide where to send their kids to school. The bill is authored by Representative Matt Krause of the Freedom Caucus, because of course it is.
Supporting the bill is state Rep. Bill Zedler, who is pretty sure that diseases like measles, mumps, and rubella are no big deal and wishes everyone would just chill out about it. After all, he says, measles can be cured with antibiotics!
Via Texas Observer:
"They want to say people are dying of measles. Yeah, in third-world countries they're dying of measles," Zedler said, shaking his head. "Today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they're not dying in America." Zedler says he's adamantly in favor of "freedom of conscience" and against mandatory vaccination. "This is not the Soviet Union, you know."
Measles cannot be cured with antibiotics. In fact, there is not an official "cure" for measles. Symptoms can be treated until they go away, but that's about it. Prior to the vaccine, about 450 children died a year from measles, but that wasn't the only issue. Measles also weakens the immune system, which often leads to children contracting and then dying from pneumonia, and can cause encephalitis, which can result in brain damage, blindness or deafness. It is not some "Oh, whatever" kind of thing. It's bad, it cannot be cured with antibiotics, and there is no reason for anyone to be getting it when we have vaccines that prevent it.
Texas isn't the only state in which politicians are responding to recent measles outbreaks by loosening restrictions on vaccines. Just this week, the Montana state legislature heard two anti-vaxxer bills -- one that would prevent daycare centers from refusing admission to children who have not been vaccinated, and another that would stop the state's health department from prohibiting families that have unvaccinated kids from taking in foster children. This means that other children would be put in danger because some other kids' parents decided to be stupid. That doesn't seem right!
Luckily, the Montana bills didn't pass. They'll keep trying though.
Both of these bills specified that the exemption must be for religious reasons, but how does that help the children that are being put in danger? "Oh, don't worry Susie -- you'll be totally fine. Bobby's dad thinks Jesus hates vaccines, so it's different than if he didn't get his vaccines for other reasons!" Sorry, no. It's not. You don't get to have a religious belief that kills people. Human sacrifices are against the law. I can't just go and start a religion that demands I rob banks. So either vaccinate your kids or keep them the hell away from other children.
Frankly, not giving kids vaccines ought to be considered child abuse. It should not be allowed, period. If parents refuse to vaccinate their kid and that child or someone else's dies because they refused vaccinations, parents should be charged with manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide just as they would if their stupidity caused that child's death in some other way. I mean, if someone left the gas on their stove, lit a cigarette and blew up the house and killed their kids, "I thought scientists were lying to me about gas being flammable, so I made up my own science" would not be a valid excuse in a court of law.
People can personally believe any stupid thing they want, up to and until it affects other people. That is where the line needs to be drawn. If Bill Zedler wants to believe that antibiotics cure measles, that's fine. If someone else wants to believe in werewolves? Go right ahead! But no one should be able to push or draft legislation, or put other children in danger, just because they believe their own pipe dreams over actual science.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse