By Barbara Loe Fisher
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There is a lot of talk these days about the beliefs of judges who will be appointed by a new President to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is an important conversation because what those judges believe will be reflected in the legal decisions they make, decisions that could have consequences for centuries.
In states where vaccine exemptions are under attack, advocates for “no exceptions” mandatory vaccination laws argue that you and your children can be forced to get vaccinated because eight men sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court said so in 1905. Public health officials and industry and medical trade lobbyists often invoke the Victorian era ruling in Jacobson v. Massachusetts1 to deny Americans the freedom to make voluntary decisions about vaccination.
Attorney Lawrence Gostin has said that Jacobson v. Massachusetts “is often regarded as the most important judicial decision in public health.”2 He got that right. He knew he could use it after 9-11 to re-write state public health laws giving government more police power to trample on freedom whenever health officials declare a “public health emergency.”3 4 5
The tragic legacy of Jacobson v. Massachusetts not only haunts public health law making in the U.S., it has come to define it. If you wonder why this summer CDC officials boldly announced they want more police power to yank you off a plane and put you into involuntary quarantine because they believe you might get measles, you can thank the Supreme Court.6 If your healthy unvaccinated child has been kicked out of school while sick vaccinated children are allowed to stay7 – or if you have been fired from your job because you said “no” to getting a flu shot8 – look no further than Jacobson v. Massachusetts.
In a nutshell, the judges sitting on the Supreme Court more than a century ago used bad logic, relied on old science and made the ridiculous assumption that doctors are infallible to give government the green light to force healthy Americans to risk their lives with a pharmaceutical product based on “common belief” rather than fact. Piously waving the “greater good” flag, they threw individuals under the bus by throwing civil liberties out the door.
Here is how the Supreme Court created the legal club being used today to take away your right to exercise freedom of thought, conscience and religious belief when making vaccine decisions for yourself or your children.
Pastor Jacobson and His Son Had Suffered Severe Reactions to Smallpox Vaccine
In 1904, a Lutheran minister, Swedish immigrant Henning Jacobson, objected to a Cambridge, Massachusetts Board of Health law requiring all adults to get a second smallpox vaccination or pay a $5 dollar fine. Pastor Jacobson and his son had suffered severe reactions to previous smallpox vaccinations and he logically argued that genetic predisposition placed him at higher risk for dying or being injured if he was revaccinated.