Are Vaccine Choice Rights At Risk In New Jersey? 

Have you decided not to vaccinate your child? A new New Jersey appellate court ruling could affect parental rights to say no to routine immunizations. 

Here’s what you need to know… 

In New Jersey, parents have rights when it comes to making medical decisions for their children. This includes the right to make certain medical choices based on religious beliefs. Under current law, a child can attend public and most private schools with select or no vaccines if the parent or guardian provides a valid religious exemption letter to the school administrator. (Medical exemptions are also allowed.)

Are there limits to these rights? As highlighted by the recent ruling in  New Jersey Div. of Child Prot. & Permanency v. J.B., N.J. Super. App. Div., the answer to this question is yes. 

In this Department of Child Protection & Permanency (DCP&P) case, parents were living together, but there was evidence of neglect and elevated abuse risk. DCP&P discovered through follow up inquiry with the children’s doctors that they had not received vaccinations. The parents stated they chose not to vaccinate due to their religious beliefs, a choice protected by law. 

At trial, the courts granted DCP&P custody of the children. Upon further motion, the courts also granted a DCP&P the ability to enforce vaccination of the children, ruling that it was necessary to safeguard the children’s health. 

On appeal, the defendants (the parents) argued that the trial court erred in granting the DCP&P authority to vaccinate their children because state law permitted religious exemption from immunization. They based their objection on school vaccine laws that allow exemption “from mandatory immunization if the child’s parent or guardian submits to the school, preschool, or child care center a written, signed statement requesting an exemption, pursuant to the requirements for religious exemption established at [the time].”  

The appellate court still upheld the order to vaccinate. As the ruling summary stated: 

Although the court acknowledged parents’ constitutionally-protected rights, it noted that such rights were not absolute and that parents’ wishes could be overridden if necessary to prevent harm to children. The court noted that objections to child immunization had to be based on medical or religious reasons; even if defendants’ objections were legitimately religious, the court held that the statutes cited by defendants concerned attendance at school.”

Most non-vaccinating parents will not be involved in a DCP&P case, but what is pertinent here is the court’s affirmation that the State is able to “intervene and override the desires of parents who refuse to consent to medical treatment if ‘it is necessary to prevent harm to a child.'”

What does this mean for your rights to exempt your children from vaccines? We can help you understand your legal rights to medical or religious exemptions. Safeguard your children. Contact us today at 888-888-0919, or please click the green button below. 

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