What’s at Stake in the DC Lawsuit?

The lawsuit we filed in federal court against the District of Columbia this month is not about four families who don’t want to vaccinate their children. Rather, it is about every parent, every family, every child, and it is about every decision you will make for your child, especially if a government official disagrees with you about it.

The Minor Consent to Vaccination Amendment Act of 2020, passed by the DC Council late last year, denies proper legal protection to parents’ rights and opens a floodgate for government intrusion into nearly any area of decision making, especially in the realm of medical care.

That is why we had to file suit. This is what we are fighting for. And this is why I’m asking for your support today.

Parental Rights are Fundamental

At the heart of our lawsuit is the issue of whether parental rights are fundamental rights.

In our case, the DC Council wants to treat parental rights as a privilege that they can easily brush aside. In discussion over the bill last fall, council members expressed the desire to remove the roadblock created by parents as it pertains to the upcoming roll out of the COVID vaccine.

If parental rights are ordinary rights, the district’s interest in “public welfare” is more than enough to push a parent’s decisions aside.

On the other hand, if parental rights are fundamental, they won’t be removed so easily.

A vaccine decision may be the current issue, but it is not all that is at stake.

If parental rights are not fundamental in the area of vaccines, they are also not fundamental in the area of education. Or discipline. Or even custody.

Your right to protect your children could stand or fall with the right of these four parents to make an informed decision on their children’s medical care.

Fortunately, parental rights are fundamental. In Troxel v Granville, 530 US 57 (2000), the Supreme Court declared, “The liberty interest at issue in this case—the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children—is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court.”

Parental Rights Demand Strict Scrutiny Protection

Because parental rights are fundamental, they cannot just be pushed aside at the whim of government actors. Rather, they must be accorded “strict judicial scrutiny.”

“Strict scrutiny” refers to the level of judicial review, the legal burden, placed on any law that would restrict a fundamental right. It is often defined as requiring that a law be “narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means.”

We expect this standard to apply, not only because of the Supreme Court’s (repeated) declaration that parental rights are fundamental, but also because it is called for in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and in the DC code.

In this case, the government failed to establish any compelling governmental interest, the law is not narrowly tailored, and it does not employ the least restrictive means to accomplish the government’s goals.

The law allows children as young as 11 to grant legally binding consent for any vaccination the government has approved, as long as the medical provider giving the shot decides the child is mature enough to make an “informed decision.” The law also requires that everyone involved in the act—the medical provider, the child’s school, and even the parent’s insurance carrier—keep this information away from the parent.

Far from being the least restrictive means, this limits the parent’s exercise of their fundamental rights in every possible way. This law will keep parents (and, not insignificantly, a lot of primary care physicians) completely in the dark regarding their child’s medical history. This will greatly increase the risk of physical, medical harm to the child now and into the future, as parents will not know their child’s full medical history.

Fortunately, this call for strict scrutiny is also firmly established. As recently as July 23, the Ninth Circuit declared, “Because California’s ban on in-person schooling abridges a fundamental liberty interest of these five Plaintiffs that is protected by the Due Process Clause, that prohibition can be upheld only if it withstands strict scrutiny.

This DC law, though it covers a completely different area of decision-making, abridges the same liberty interest cited in that Ninth Circuit case.

Parental Rights Protect Children

Ultimately, parental rights protect children.

DC’s law places children at risk of manipulation or coercion, while those naturally placed in their lives to protect them from bad decisions—their parents—are taken out of the way.

Keeping parents in the dark will also make it impossible to properly monitor a child for a possible negative reaction. And it will put the child at risk of receiving other treatments that may be contra-indicated with the vaccine, because they do not know the child had the vaccine.

Yes, there are parents who abuse children. But these are a tiny minority.

The vast majority of parents make the decisions they do out of love and concern for their child’s wellbeing.

This is why we do all that we do: to protect children by empowering parents.

And this is why this lawsuit matters, not only to those who are religiously opposed to vaccines, as our plaintiffs are, but to every parent in America.

This is why we must protect all parental rights as fundamental.

And it’s why I’m urging you today to partner with us in this important fight.

Please visit parentalrightsfoundation.org/donate and invest in our mission today.

Thank you for standing with us for the sake of all parents and the children who depend on them.


Michael Ramey
Executive Director