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American Atheists Supports Letting D.C. Minors get Vaccinated without Consent of Religious Parents

⁠Washington, DC—Today, American Atheists’ Vice President for Legal and Policy Alison Gill submitted testimony supporting B23-171. This DC bill would give minors the choice to be vaccinated without parental consent.

“Vaccines are too frequently denied to young people based on the religious beliefs of their parents or guardians,” said Gill. “For example, measles is a vaccine-preventable disease that has plagued multiple religious communities.”

Under current DC law, minors themselves cannot choose to get vaccinated. However, they can already seek contraceptive services, mental health care, prenatal care, and abortions without parental consent. B23-171 would amend the law by simply adding vaccination to this list.

“Preventing minors from making immunization decisions for their own bodies puts young people at significant risk of contracting debilitating and potentially deadly infectious diseases,” said Gill. “Informed minors should be able to make decisions regarding their own health.”

At the same time, the bill strikes a middle ground between respecting minors’ autonomy and putting appropriate limitations on their medical authority. For example, B23-171 extends only to vaccinations recommended by the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). The bill also only allows informed minors to independently make these medical decisions.

“Lawmakers have a responsibility to protect all youth,” Gill told the D.C. Councilmembers. “We strongly urge you to pass B23-171 to protect young people in the District of Columbia. No young person should suffer due to preventable disease.”