As we prepared for the 87th Legislative Session, there was great uncertainty surrounding what the legislature would look like amidst a global pandemic. Would the session begin on time or be delayed? What invasive restrictions or protocols would be in place? And worse, how would this change the level of opposition we would be facing? As Texans navigated ever-evolving health recommendations and public health mandates, Texans for Vaccine Choice committed to doing the same in the legislature. No matter how many obstacles we had to overcome, our commitment to engaging as citizen advocates was only strengthened through the challenges of the pandemic.
COVID in the Capitol:
When the legislative session started in January, COVID protocols in the Capitol included rigorous restrictions such as mandatory testing to enter, mandatory masks, and physical distancing. Many offices were closed to the public, thereby preventing constituents from meeting face to face with their representatives. Some legislators even barred unvaccinated individuals from entering their offices. But these restrictions did not dampen the fighting spirit of Texans for Vaccine Choice! We were actively engaged throughout the session, and as the session carried on, we were eventually able to invite our loyal families into the Capitol to canvas legislative offices on five separate occasions. Our families shared factual information on COVID-19 vaccines, employee vaccine mandates, vaccine passport requirements, and violations of informed consent and medical privacy on public school campuses. We had boots on the ground from opening day on January 12 to Sine Die on May 31! (covid tents, DPS security, mask signs pictures)
87th Texas Legislature Highlights:
Twelve TFVC Priority Bills Filed
HB 1687 (Rep. Noble et al.): Prohibiting employers, labor organizations, and employment agencies from discriminating against individuals based on COVID-19 vaccination status.
HB 2536 (Rep. Krause et al.)/SB 2015 (Sen. Buckingham): Prohibiting the termination of parental rights or the removal of a child from the home on the basis that the parents sought an opinion from more than one medical provider relating to the child’s medical care, transferred the child’s medical care to a new medical provider, or transferred the child to another health care facility.
HB 2760 (Rep. White et al.)/SB 1313 (Sen. Hall): Protecting religious beliefs against medical treatments during an emergency and ensuring that any emergency-related quarantine is done in the least restrictive means possible and with due process.
HB 2856 (Rep. Swanson et al.)/SB 1312 (Sen. Hall): Protecting Medicaid patients from discrimination by state-funded doctors based on vaccination status.
HB 2968 (Rep. Cason et al.)/SB 1310 (Sen. Hall): Defining informed consent to vaccination.
HB 3028 (Rep. Middleton et al.): Prohibiting insurance companies from conditioning insurance coverage on vaccination status.
HB 3222 (Rep. Leach et al.): Allowing blank exemption forms to be printed directly from the Department of State Health Services website or obtained from school nurse offices.
SB968 (Senator Kolkhorst et al.) Reigning in Emergency Powers, Bans Vaccine Passports
Thirty Proactive Medical Freedom Bills Filed
The pandemic brought new attention to the issue of medical freedom. Citizens and legislators were now aware of the dangers associated with government medical mandates. The unhealthy relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and federal policy makers was on display for all to see. As a result of this new awareness, thirty bills to proactively protect and advance medical freedom were filed this session.
Nine of those bills received hearings, including SB 1669 that would have made ALL vaccine mandates illegal and prohibited discrimination on the basis of vaccination status. With only twelve hours notice, medical freedom advocates from across Texas showed up to the Capitol in unprecedented numbers to testify in support of the bill. Despite testimonies being limited to three minutes per person, the hearing was over five hours long.
– 54 individuals testified in support of the bill, including 23 medical professionals
– 10 individuals testified against the bill, all of whom represented special interest medical and pharmaceutical groups
All Dangerous Bills Defeated
TFVC actively opposed eight bills this legislative session. Three of these bills received committee hearings: SB 636 (Sen. Seliger) would have required vaccination and exemption rates to be publicly reported at the individual campus level, HB 3 (Rep. Burrows) would have granted sweeping pandemic emergency authority to the governor – including the power to control the movement of individuals, and HB 678 would have allowed for the subversion of parental consent and circumvention of the child’s pediatrician by allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines to children as young as three. HB 3 also would have conditioned civil liability protections for businesses upon compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, rules, ordinances, declarations, and proclamations related to the pandemic disaster.
All three bills died in committees.
SIGNED INTO LAW with UNANIMOUS Support in BOTH Chambers
Less than one month after the 86th Legislative Session ended in 2019, the eyes of the nation were riveted on Texas as a medical kidnapping case unfolded. A medically fragile four-year-old named Drake Pardo was removed forcibly from his home and his family by Child Protective Services in the presence of armed police officers. His parents were accused of medical child abuse, also known as Munchausen By Proxy (MBP), based upon the thinnest threads of evidence. Nonetheless, the mere accusation would keep Drake and his parents separated from each other for nearly five months. Fast forward to the 87th Legislative Session and Rep. Krause (HB 2536) and Sen. Buckingham (SB 2015) filed a companion set of bills to amend current Texas law to describe actions commonly taken by loving and involved parents who care deeply about their child’s medical care and helping ensure that those actions cannot be used as a basis for accusing a parent of abuse or neglect or to otherwise interfere in the parent/child relationship. These actions include seeking an opinion from more than one medical provider relating to the child’s medical care, transferring the child’s medical care to a new medical provider, or transferring the child to another healthcare facility. The bills passed unanimously through both chambers and therefore took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
Vaccine Passports Prohibited in Texas!
Through the heroic efforts of Senator Kolkhorst and Representative Klick, vaccine passports are now prohibited in Texas! SB 968 prohibits government entities in Texas from issuing COVID-19 vaccine passports of any kind and prohibits Texas businesses from requiring customers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or immunity to enter or receives services from the business. In addition, SB 968 requires the Texas Division of Emergency Management to ensure adequate stockpiles of American-made PPE, establishes legislative oversight during a public health disaster, protects access to elective medical procedures, and establishes the Office of the Chief State Epidemiologist. The bill received near-unanimous bipartisan support in both chambers and therefore took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
We Influenced Two Executive Orders
April 5th, 2021:
Whereas, Gov. Abbott has repeatedly stated, “Vaccines will always be voluntary, never forced,” we, the undersigned, call on him to ban the implementation of a vaccine or health passport by any public or private agency, organization, or business in the state so that ALL Texans’ rights to informed consent, medical privacy, and vaccine choice are preserved.
April 7th 2021: https://gov.texas.gov/uploads/files/press/EO-GA-35_private_health_information_protection_vaccines.pdf
After weeks of canvassing the Capitol regarding invasions of medical privacy and bullying at Austin ISD campuses, Governor Abboott heard our plea and took immediate action:
We Assisted with the Submission of Two Opinion Requests to the Attorney General
First: Last summer, Texans For Vaccine Choice was concerned that Texas’ vaccine exemption laws could be undermined by school districts who sought to exclude children with vaccine exemptions during an epidemic. In anticipation of the potential for school districts to incorrectly apply current state vaccine exemption law during the COVID-19 outbreak, TFVC contacted Texas House Chairman James White, who promptly asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue an Attorney General’s Opinion.
TFVC’s objective was to seek clarity from the Texas Attorney General’s Office that would close the door on school districts’ ability to enforce a de-facto vaccine mandate on Texas children.
In an opinion issued on March 5, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton concluded that Texas public schools may not exclude students who lack vaccinations when such vaccinations are unrelated to the epidemic. Paxton reasoned that provisions in state law that allow a school to exclude unvaccinated students during an epidemic only apply to those students who have not received a vaccine-related to the epidemic. Because no COVID-19 vaccine is currently approved by the FDA for use by children under the age of 16 and also because no COVID-19 vaccine has gone through the process to be added to the list of vaccines required for school enrollment, the issue of whether a student is vaccinated is irrelevant to the COVID-19 epidemic. Attorney General Paxton further concluded that to exclude unvaccinated students at this time could violate students’ religious liberties enshrined in the US and Texas Constitutions and state law.
Texans for Vaccine Choice is pleased with the result of this opinion and applauds Attorney General Paxton’s commitment to protecting parental rights and religious liberties. While this opinion is a win for personal liberty and medical privacy, Texans for Vaccine Choice will continue to closely monitor this issue and update concerned families as more information becomes available.
OUtcome: we won: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/opinion-files/opinion/2021/kp-0379_0.pdf
Community Engagement and Growth:
16 in-person events:
3,500 people reached with in-person events.
TFVC Grew by Over 600%
Our digital media reach increased 412%
Organic Grassroots Growth through Independent Media:
Despite widespread censorship from mainstream media, we maintained a significant presence with numerous opportunities such as a recurring guest slot on One Life Radio. TFVC also appeared on The Chad Prather Show, the Frontline Nurses Podcast, ReWild Podcast, Alyia Matheson Podcast, and countless local news episodes.
When Texans for Vaccine Choice began in 2015, medical freedom advocates were simply playing defense in the Texas Legislature. In six short years, through strategic community relations, Texans for Vaccine Choice has built a network of support from the bottom up to the top of our elected officials, quickly setting the standard for state medical freedom advocacy. We are enormously proud of the success we continue to achieve in our mission to protect and advance informed consent, medical privacy, and vaccine choice through influential public policy, quality educational materials, and training to a connected and engaged community.