MEDFORD, Ore. — Oregon’s Supreme Court is deciding whether or not the state can force immunizations for kids placed in their custody.
This case is essentially a battle of religious freedom versus public safety: can a parent decide that their kid shouldn’t get shots for religious reasons, even if that child has been placed in the custody of the state? It turns out the answer isn’t so simple, and could have a big impact on religious expression in Oregon.
The case itself involves two parents in Marion County. Those parents had custody of their kids taken away and placed with state, which almost means it’s a temporary situation like foster care.
In those cases, parents do retain some rights over those children, but right now, state law says that a child under six placed in state custody must be inoculated within 90 days. That usually goes unquestioned for children over six as well. Experts say the question is whether or not religious freedom comes before public safety.
“If one child comes down with whooping cough, let’s say, and if there’s other children who aren’t immunized, then you’ve got sort of a mini-epidemic going on,” said Jennifer Mylenek with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
The issue has never come up in court here in Jackson County. It also won’t affect the rights of biological parents or permanent legal guardians like adoptive parents from opting out of vaccines.
This is an issue that has popped up in other state supreme courts around the country. This of course will have no impact on the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision.