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The right of families to make informed medical decisions (Abraham's Law).

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Health Freedom Foundation and
American Association for Health Freedom

February 6, 2007
By Jim Fussell

Virginia Legislative Activity in February 2007 (the good and the bad)

The American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF) is pleased to announce that both the Virginia House and Senate have passed Abraham’s Law. This new law is an important advance for the rights of parents together with mature older children to make informed medical choices. A second law passed by the Virginia Legislature this week, however, takes away the right of families to make medical choices. This week the Virginia House and Senate became the first state legislature to require that school age girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomanavirus (HPV). With these laws the Virginia State Legislature is the first in the United States to approve such laws in both chambers.

The right of families to make informed medical decisions (Abraham's Law).

In the past few weeks, AAHF has been working with Virginia legislators and others in support of “Abraham’s Law” (HB 2314 /SB 905) on the rights of parents and a mature child to make informed medical decisions. Abraham's Law is named for a Chincoteague, Virginia youth whose parents faced a widely publicized legal custody battle in the courts during the summer of 2006 just as their son was undergoing cancer treatment for Hodgkin's disease. After Abraham Cherrix and his parents declined to undergo additional high-dose cancer treatment, the parents became the subject of a medical neglect case initiated by Child Protective Services. In July 2006 Abraham told the press, "I think it's my body. I can choose what's best for my body. If I don't have the right to do that, then I don't have any rights at all anyway."

This is an important bill for health freedom in the State of Virginia and could become the model law for other states. Abraham's Law would allow parents to refuse a certain medical treatment for a child and not face charges of neglect on four conditions:

* that the parents and child make the decision jointly;
* the child is sufficiently mature to have an opinion on his or her treatment;
* the family has considered other treatment options;
* and the parents believe in good faith that the decision is in the child's best interest.

Mandatory HPV vaccination for sixth grade girls

That's the good, now here's the bad news. Unfortunately, Virginia legislators have also passed a bills (HB 2035/SB 1230) to require all girls entering the sixth grade to receive a vaccine for the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. The bill was passed in two versions. The House bill give parents the right to review information about the vaccine and file a form to exempt their daughters from requirement. The Senate version of the bill has no parental opt-out provision.

According to the Washington Post, Merck & Co., maker of the Gardasil HPV vaccine, has provided an undisclosed amount of funds for lobbying efforts in at least 18 states where lawmakers are considering whether to require the vaccine. Two sponsors of the Virginia bill received sizable campaign contributions from Merck, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, which tracks campaign finances in the state. The House bill's sponsor, Del. Phillip Hamilton, R-Newport News, chairman of the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee, received $10,000 from the pharmaceutical company over the last decade. The Senate sponsor, Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax County, has received $4,100 from the drug maker since 1998. Last week. The new HPV vaccine announced in June 2006 is one of several recent advances in efforts to reduce rates of cervical cancer.

The American Association for Health Freedom believes a mandatory HPV vaccination requirement for girls represents a setback for health freedom.

To contact Virginia Legislators go to and click on House of Delegates or Senate. To call the House of Delegates: (804) 698-1500 or the Virginia Senate: (804) 698-7410.

Jim Fussell

Campaign Manager
Health Freedom Foundation and American Association for Health Freedom
4620 Lee Highway, Suite 210
Arlington, VA 22207
Fax: 703.294.6380

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