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Arkansas Moms Sue State Over Child Vaccines

Arkansas Moms Sue State Over Child Vaccines
By Matt Pyeatt Staff Writer
December 07, 2001

( - Two Catholic women in Arkansas are suing the state, claiming their religious freedom is being violated because of a program that mandates vaccinations for their children.

Shannon Law, of Little Rock, wants her three children exempted from the chicken pox vaccine, because, she says, the vaccine is derived from "aborted fetuses." Susan Brock, of Royal, is suing to prevent her four children from being vaccinated against Hepatitis-B because, she says, she does not want to give the impression her children are sexually promiscuous or drug users -- two of the primary ways Hepatitis B is spread.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. As the legal case unfolds, none of the children has yet been vaccinated.

The controversy began when Arkansas health officials denied exemptions to the women, despite a state law that allows parents to opt out of vaccination programs if they can show doctrinal proof that their "recognized" church opposes the immunizations.

Law attempted to show just that, according to her lawyer, Erik Stanley, with the Liberty Counsel.

Law sent Arkansas officials excerpts from Catholic catechism as well as statements from priests. One of those came from a priest at the Vatican, who, according to Stanley, "backed her up, saying that while there is no explicit Catholic doctrine that says Catholics are opposed to the chicken pox vaccination, she logically derived from the Catholic teaching that she should be opposed to chicken pox immunization because it is derived from aborted fetuses."

In denying Law the exemption, Arkansas' Department of Health "cited some sort of study from some committee that the Denver Archbishop had created, saying there was no problem with the chicken pox vaccination," Stanley said.

Reginald Rogers, deputy general counsel for the Arkansas Department of Health, said that while the vaccines were originally developed using aborted fetuses, that is no longer the case.

"What I understand is that you don't use the same materials. It is derived through cultures over and over and over again," Rogers said.

He added that, "the Vatican has not taken a position on this issue of using a derived cell structure from an aborted fetus."

"We're not getting into a theological debate. We were only pointing out that [Law's] view of what the church said didn't match with what we had received information on," Rogers said. "Most moralists agree that there is not a problem with using that because you are not using the original aborted fetus. This is several generations of cell development."

Stanley is also representing Brock, who was denied an exemption from the Arkansas Department of Health when she sought to have her children spared from the Hepatitis-B vaccine.

"This shows that it is happening to more than one person, this is not an isolated incident," Stanley said. "I think it is just a matter of time before people begin realizing what is in these vaccinations and start objecting to them. This violates people's religious beliefs."

Last month, the Oravax/Acambis Corporation was awarded a federal contract to develop a new smallpox vaccine. The company has proposed to the Centers for Disease Control and the Federal Drug Administration the use of "human fibroblasts," or parts of aborted fetuses in the smallpox vaccinations.