RFK, Jr., proving information changes minds.
Supporters of state legislation to tighten vaccine exemptions appeared poised for success this year after the Disneyland measles outbreak, but opponents are hoping the Kennedy magic proves equally contagious.
Longtime vaccination critic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. notched a victory last week with the defeat of a bill in Oregon,
one of his first stops on a national barnstorming tour of states considering measures to make it tougher to opt out of childhood immunizations.
Mr. Kennedy met with lawmakers and hosted a screening of the film Trace Amounts
, which ties a mercury-based preservative in some childhood vaccines to autism. He urged lawmakers to kill Senate Bill 442, which would have eliminated the nonmedical exemption
in Oregon, the nation's leading state for religious and philosophical exemptions at the kindergarten level, with 7.1 percent of parents opting out of child vaccinations.
"I don't think it's appropriate to force people to undergo, to have their children undergo a medical procedure in this country," Mr. Kennedy said in a segment on KOIN-TV in Salem. "I think it's against the tenets of our country."
Mr. Kennedy's star power, combined with a huge push from the "medical freedom" movement,
proved too much for the coalition of state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward. The Democrat, physician and sponsor of S.B. 442 pulled the bill
Thursday amid crumbling support, saying she no longer had the votes despite the backing of the Oregon Health Policy Board.
"Some of my colleagues changed their minds," she told the Salem Statesman Journal
. "They got a lot of pressure one way or another. This is an issue that really mobilizes a very small minority of people, but it makes them very loud.
I get that. That's their right. But there were a bunch of people who weren't prepared to take on this controversial of a topic at this point."