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The COVID-19 crisis is revealing the selfishness of the anti-vaxxer movement

I’ve never had much tolerance for most of the anti-vaccination parents I encounter practicing child custody law. Not only are their views on vaccinations anti-science and highly selective of discredited research–I see a lot of that these days–but they’ve always struck me as selfish. The public health crisis created by COVID-19 has hardened this view. I will no longer represent parents who demand I advocate anti-vaccine positions for their non- immunocompromised child(ren). Here’s why.

Let’s assume the anti-vaxxer belief is accurate: vaccines are the primary reason 1 in 70 American children have autism spectrum disorders. Even then, refusing to vaccinate children who are not immunocompromised would still be an incredibly selfish act. Parents who do not vaccinate rely upon the herd immunity created by other parents vaccinating their children to protect their own children from contagious diseases that historically used to kill approximately 20% of all children. If no one was vaccinating their children, and 20% of all children were still dying from mumps, measles, polio, whooping cough, and other historically contagious childhood diseases, no rational parent would forgo an alleged 1.4% risk of autism from the vaccines for a 20% risk of death. Vaccine refusal is a luxury created from the herd immunity generated by the vast majority of parents vaccinating their children.

The COVID-19 crisis highlights this issue. I was telling friends and family in late-February that COVID-19 was likely to be the most consequential story of our lifetime. Most thought I was exaggerating (there were 68 diagnosed cases in the United States on February 29th). They all believe me now (at the time I post this, there have been 33,018 diagnosed cases, most businesses in Charleston are shut down, beaches are closed, and the courts are hearing nothing but emergencies through May 1st). With no herd immunity, no vaccine, and no effective treatments, society has been suddenly and radically altered in a manner unprecedented in my lifetime. If and when an effective vaccine is developed, parents will be clamoring for their children to be among the first to receive it.

In the past I have disagreed with the position of my anti-vaxxer clients but have not refused to advocate those positions if the client demanded it. No more. South Carolina Rule of Professional Conduct 1.16(b)(4) allows an attorney to withdraw from representation that the attorney “considers repugnant.” Earlier in my career I refused cases that would have required advocating against gay rights or marriage equality on this basis. This current health crises solidifies my belief that the anti-vaxxer position is repugnant. I urge all family law attorneys who share this belief to stop advocating the anti-vaxxer position.

Put Mr. Forman’s experience, knowledge, and dedication to your service for any of your South Carolina family law needs.

Retain Mr. Forman

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