To Jennifer Workman, God Himself commands her to protect her 8 year-old daughter Madison.
“I am a steward of the Lord for this child, “she said as she walked outside her single level home in Lenore West Virginia on Monday. “And I am not going to let anyone tell me what's best for my child.”
In 1999, Madison’s older sister developed autism just months after receiving her state-required immunizations for measles, mumps and rubella.
“Right after she received her childhood vaccines…her verbal...her potty training…everything had stopped,” she said.
And so two years ago when it came time for Madison to receive her immunizations, Workman said no. Her elementary school in Lenore responded by barring Madison from attending class. And thus began a two year legal struggle with the State of West Virginia that may very well determine the limits of parental rights in America in regard to vaccines.
Workman says she was shocked when the principal told her Madison had to receive the shots.
“Helpless,” she said. “I mean there is no other word for it. I am helpless. I feel forced.”
“My child is not a ward of the state,” she explained. “And I should be able to make those choices myself.”
Workman’s attorney Patricia Finn is an expert in forced vaccination cases and she is outraged.
“This is a basic human right,” she said. “To be able to decide what is injected in our bodies, in our children’s bodies, is everything.”
Unfortunately, last December, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, and Finn now is vowing to take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“This is a First Amendment issue. This is a 9th Amendment issue. This is about basic freedom,” she said.
Most states, explained Finn have a “religious exemption” for immunizations, giving parents who don’t want their children vaccinated an out.
West Virginia and Mississippi, she says, are the only states who don’t have the exemption. And West Virginia is taking a hard line with Workman.
State attorneys maintain vaccines are safe and that there is no evidence linking them to autism. And some experts, including Dr. Anita Chandra, say those who refuse vaccines not only endanger their children, but other kids as well:
“They're also risking spreading the infection to children who are not immunized because of age, [or are] only partially immunized because they haven't received their booster vaccines.”
Chandra is a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, a group that pushes the importance of childhood vaccines. Chandra says we as a society have an obligation to ensure all children are immunized.
“It's important to vaccinate all children so you prevent illness from spreading within that population,” she said.
“If my child is unvaccinated and all these other children are vaccinated, How does my child pose any threat?” responded Workman. “This is my child and it’s a right I should have.”.