They call it a vaccine debate, but it’s actually a debate about freedom and liberty. For years, we’ve been debating whether vaccines are good for you. But because of New Jersey’s new vaccination laws, it’s just now that I’m starting to realize that that’s really beside the point.

Under the New Jersey law that now exists, students in schools are mandated to be vaccinated against a long list of diseases. The only way to get out of this up until now has been to claim that the vaccines would pose a medical risk for a child or that the child's religion would not allow it. This left one alternative for parents who didn’t want to submit their kids to the needle: They had to claim religious exemptions, whether or not they were really legitimate.

With government now being many people’s only God, it was only a matter of time before the religious exemption would be banished. Last week, the NJ As sembly did just that. No more religious exemption. Game over.

The debate has always been that people who are anti-vaccinations are afraid what vaccinations may do to their kids, and those who are pro-vaccinations are afraid of what an unvaccinated public may do to their kids. Both sides are caring and well-meaning. But with the rhetoric coming from both sides, and now that the law is about to change, I realize that my problem with vaccinations has never been whether my kids could get sick from them. I have always made the decision that the potential benefits of vaccinating my kids outweighed the potential risks, and gave my kids pretty much all the vaccines offered to them at the time. And i still would have them get most of the vaccinations and advise my kids to do that for their kids.

My problem was always not being able to choose. And it’s ironic in a country where we fight for the right to mutilate and/or excise a growing fetus from the body (because it is after all MY body,) when it comes to vaccines, apparently it’s the government’s kid’s body. Now, one could argue that this is not a good comparison. After all, theoretically, abortions are performed on adults only (well, kind of) and children are helpless when it comes to making decisions about how to protect themselves from diseases.

But why, then, shouldn’t a government entity be able to mandate that I give antibiotics to my child when she has an ear infection? Or strep throat? Should the government be able to mandate medicines for other contagious diseases? For instance, should I be mandated by law to give my child a cough medication since coughs can be spread through sputum and other children, especially those who may have delicate immune systems can conceivably become ill? Maybe even seriously ill?

Should the government mandate that I give my daughter Gardisil (one vaccine I refused for my children) when she’s 12 because she may spread HPV through sex, thereby causing an outbreak of cervical cancer or other cancers that will most assuredly be linked to HPV In the future? So far, that one is still optional, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time.

So it’s not about whether or not vaccines actually cause autism. That’s for the scientists to argue. But it’s about the government telling me how to protect my kid. And up until now, throughout the history of the world, that’s been a parent's job.

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