Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on Friday defended parents’ right to choose whether to vaccinate their children.
At a town hall event in Iowa, a mother of five said that “parental rights for choice and my religious rights for choice are being challenged, and so I want to know what stance you would take to protect both life and my parental rights to make those choices.” Fiorina responded by saying parents should be able to decide against vaccinating their children if doing so conflicts with their religious beliefs.
“First of all, we must protect religious liberty and someone’s ability to practice their religion. We must devote energy and resources to doing so, period,” Fiorina began by saying. On vaccinations, she said, “When in doubt, it is always the parents’ choice.”
Former New York Gov. George Pataki lashed out at Fiorina that same day, tweeting that “Pandering for votes isn’t going to win us back the Presidency. Optional vaccinations is bad for public health & bad politics. @CarlyFiorina.” In a separate tweet, Pataki attacked Fiorina’s professional background and intelligence: “Not sure how you run a major tech company @HP & reject accepted science that has eradicated diseases like small pox & polio @CarlyFiorina.”
At the Iowa town hall event, Fiorina recalled a conversation she had with her daughter, who was questioning whether or not to vaccinate her own children.
“Our daughter said, ‘You know, measles is one thing, but some of these vaccinations now that they’re asking particularly young girls to get at age 10 and 11, I don’t want to do that.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want you to do it, either.’ And she got bullied, she got bullied by a school nurse,” Fiorina said.
Fiorina specified that while she supports parents’ right to reject vaccinations for their children, she also believes that school districts should have the right to turn away youngsters who have not been inoculated against communicable diseases.
The presidential candidate also said she disagrees with California’s decision to make all vaccinations mandatory in that state, and reject religious exemptions. Fiorina ran for Senate in California in 2010.
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.