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May 6, 2014
State Status Update: Is Justina Finally Going Home?
While our primary goal is to adopt a U.S. constitutional amendment to preserve your parental rights, we are also diligently at work at the state level for the same purpose. But because our state efforts are localized, you generally don’t know what is going on in states other than your own. So here’s the run-down, including an update on the case of Justina Pelletier in Massachusetts – or is it in Connecticut?
Taking a Stand in the StatesColorado
As April dawned, we were working in Colorado to push legislation that would roll back a bad law from last year regarding a parent’s choice of medical care for their children. In 2013 the legislature passed a law to forbid parents from taking any child under the age of 2 years to any kind of health professional except a pediatrician. Everyone from naturopaths to chiropractors was banned under the bill, greatly limiting parents’ options. Even a general practitioner is currently unacceptable according to the state, whose lawmakers think they know best for all children.
This year’s SB14-032 would have reversed that part of the law, and we asked those of you in Colorado to call and support it. Unfortunately, the House Committee on Health, Insurance, and Environment voted 6-3 on April 3 to “postpone [the bill] indefinitely.”
The Pennsylvania legislature is considering a bill that would throw open the doors of information sharing between medical professionals and Child Protection Services (CPS) workers in cases of alleged abuse or neglect, even if the medical professional is not connected to the case or even if the case does not involved a medical element. This would put child privacy and family integrity at risk. Senate Bill 27 would even permit CPS to gather private medical records of child siblings who are not alleged to have been abused or neglected.
ParentalRights.org was able to coordinate with other organizations who provided testimony at the April 29 hearing of the House Committee on Children and Youth to oppose this bill. We also alerted Dr. Rodger Sayre, a Pennsylvania licensed physician and member of the ParentalRights.Org board of directors, who wrote a letter to the committee offering his own professional, expert testimony against the measure.
The committee has not yet voted on this bill, but we hope they will refuse to send it to the full House. If they do pass it on, we will alert our Pennsylvania readers and ask you to contact your member of the House to vote against this intrusion of your child’s medical privacy.
California Senate Bill 909 was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, May 6. This bill would allow a social services worker to take a child for a medical, dental, or mental health screening, even before a mandatory detention hearing in which a judge might authorize the worker to take custody of the child. ParentalRights.org opposes this bill out of concern for parental rights, Fourth Amendment due process rights, and the inclusion of the subjective term “mental health.”
SB909 would infringe parental rights and due process rights by allowing the social services worker to take control of the child’s medical decisions before the parents or the child have received a hearing by the court: before abuse has been validated, before a child is adjudged to be dependent on the court, and before parental rights have been formally limited by the court’s decision.
The bill would also include “mental health” as one area of care that social services workers would specifically be permitted to secure for children in the state’s care. This is troubling when one considers the highly subjective nature of “mental health” and the fact that “mental health” has been the excuse behind Massachusetts’ taking and holding of Justina Pelletier from her parents for nearly 15 months.
We contacted our parental rights champions in California on Monday to call members of the committee to halt the advance of this bill. We are still waiting to see the outcome of our efforts.
Perhaps our most exciting state-specific news comes from Oklahoma, where a 25-page bill called the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” has just passed the House for a second time. HB 1384, authored by Rep. Sally Kern and Sen. AJ Griffin, passed the House on an 89-3 vote on February 19. In the Senate, it passed 43-0 (5 excused) on April 14, but with amendments. So it returned to the House and seemed destined for a conference committee that would work out differences between the two versions. Then, on May 5, the request for conference was rescinded; the House voted 88-3 to pass the bill with the Senate’s amendments.
As of today the Parents’ Bill of Rights is on its way to the desk of Governor Mary Fallin, who is expected to sign the measure into law. This new law will respect the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing, education, and care of their children in every imaginable setting. Further, the bill asserts that the state cannot infringe these rights “without demonstrating that the compelling governmental interest as applied to the child involved is of the highest order, is narrowly tailored and is not otherwise served by a less restrictive means.” This is a carefully worded application of the “strict scrutiny” review standard that we call for in all of our legislation and our proposed Amendment.
Justina Pelletier: Massachusetts or Connecticut?
We have also been working in Massachusetts to craft legislation that will protect the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children. You are probably aware of the case of Justina Pelletier, a Connecticut teenager taken from her parents’ custody at the request of Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) because an intern there disagreed with the medical diagnosis of Justina’s own physician. The parents agreed with her doctor from Tufts Medical Center that Justina suffers from mitochondrial disease, while the staff at BCH decided she was suffering from somatoform disorder, a form of mental illness in which her symptoms are imagined.
We have also worked diligently through our social media network and through emails like this one to draw attention to this family’s plight. As a result of the pressure which we have helped to generate (we cannot nearly claim all the credit for ourselves!), the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) has announced plans to move Justina to a different treatment facility next week, this one in her home state of Connecticut.
“We want Justina to go home,” Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz announced on Monday. “We think, at this point, with all the family dynamics that are going on and the media attention to it, that getting her home with the appropriate services is going to be the best thing for her.”
Unfortunately, DCF will continue to have custody of Justina until her parents have met certain goals to the department’s satisfaction. Still, this announcement is a large step in the right direction. If it leads to her going home permanently very soon, then we are certainly glad to see it.
Remember: Expanded Constitutional Literacy
Don’t forget that we are currently offering the newly expanded Constitutional Literacy DVD set with your donation of $50 or more to ParentalRights.org. This limited-time offer ends Sunday, May 11, at 11:59 p.m. PDT.
Note for Constitutional Literacy owners: Mr. Farris is working to make the added or amended episodes available online to those who already own the set. You will be able to stream the video for free, and only need to secure the expanded edition if you want to own them in disk form. We hope you are willing to donate to protect parental rights anyway – but we do not want to mislead you.
Director of Communications & Research
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