When she learned California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill mandating vaccinations for any child enrolled in any school into law, Debra Baretta immediately broke down in tears.
A mother of three, Baretta believes that as a matter of personal privacy, as well as for medical reasons—she maintains there is a link between vaccinations and a surge in childhood illnesses—the law is dangerous.
“We feel pretty much powerless,” the Bay Area resident told Fusion. “No one is listening to us at all.”
Baretta says she’s contemplating leaving California—but not for another U.S. state. A second-generation American whose parents emigrated from Italy, she’s begun the process of applying for EU citizenship.
The reason: A House bill introduced by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) that would mandate vaccines for all American school children.
The Vaccinate All Children Act of 2015 (HR 2232) was introduced on May 1, and referred to the House’s health subcommittee a few weeks later, where it remains today. It would prohibit the government from awarding preventive health-related grants to state institutions unless that state required all of its student enrolled public school to be vaccinated.
“Research has shown that vaccinations are effective, keep people healthy, and save lives,” Wilson said in a statement introducing the bill. “Children who are not vaccinated put themselves and others in danger of acquiring and spreading preventable diseases.”
A representative for Wilson told Fusion that her extensive background in education—including serving as a school principal and on Miami-Dade’s school board, as well as her experiences as a parent—led her to propose the bill.
There has been no conclusive proof that vaccines are responsible for any of the various maladies—autism, cancer, SIDS, allergies—that pundits, commentators, and celebrities have attributed to them. One Georgia doctor who put forward such a link was recently found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Meanwhile, outbreaks of diseases previously not seen in generations have occurred in Florida, Washington, and at Disneyland in southern California, an event that helped precipitate the passage of the California law. The first death from measles in 12 years was reported Thursday.
Because of this, states across the country are working to strengthen vaccination requirements. An Oregon state senator has proposed having schools publish immunization rates. As of this year, Michigan now requires any parent seeking an exemption to be educated by a licensed health worker. And an Illinois bill would require anyone seeking a religious exemption to submit a form from both a doctor and religious official. The patchwork of state laws can be seen in this map prepared by the National Vaccine Information Center, a “pro-choice” vaccine group.
The muddle would be wiped away instantly with Wilson’s law, something that has vaccine skeptics concerned.
“Passage of a federal law impacting every child in a public school is far too intrusive and unnecessary for addressing what may be a medical threat on a local level, where [herd] immunity [may] not have been achieved,” said Brad Decus, head of the Pacific Justice Institute, a California-based advocacy group.
Baretta says that in the meantime, other opponents of the California bill are discussing leaving the state.
“They’re trying to figure out where to go,” she said. “They’re not going to leave today—financially, that’s hard on many people—but yes, there will be an exodus,” she said.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.