Health and Science News for Parents

Happy Fourth of July! Reasons to love America this week…

written by Tara Haelle

There are days – many days, unfortunately – when living in the U.S. frustrates or saddens or angers me. As I see black churches burning in the midst of a debate over a racist symbol following a tragedy like the Charleston shootings, it’s hard not to become despondent. When you hear presidential hopefuls making non-science based comments (I’m not going to link because this isn’t a political blog, and I don’t need to draw attention to them all anyway), it’s disheartening. Turning on the news some days can be a recipe for depression or anxiety.

But the past week or two has been different. Just a day after the Supreme Court upheld Affordable Care Act subsidies – a ruling that ensures millions of individuals do not lose their health insurance – one of the most momentous rulings of our time came: the final wall against marriage equality fell down, and the country (and social media) erupted in a celebration of rainbows – just in time for Pride Weekends across the country. (In a less publicized but also important ruling, the Supreme Court upheld fair housing policies as well.)

rainbow fireworks

Happy Fourth of July! Photo by Eric Kilby

As I wrote at Forbes the day of the marriage equality ruling, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision was a win for children too. The American Academy of Pediatrics has maintained for more than a decade that gay parents are just as qualified to be parents as straight ones. The AAP’s policy on same sex parents is that children fare just as well as those of different-sex parents, a reality upheld by a long and robust evidence base. What matters is that children have “secure and enduring relationships with committed and nurturing adults to enhance their life,” and sexual orientation or gender differences have no effect on that need.

Then, after a weekend of rainbow madness, Monday brought California governor Jerry Brown’s signature on Senate Bill 277, the legislation which removes all non-medical exemptions to immunization requirements for daycare and schools in California. (California’s immunization requirements do not include all the vaccines recommended on the CDC schedule. For example, rotavirus, HPV, and Hib are not required for kindergarten entry, and seventh grade entry only requires proof of Tdap and MMR.)

This law makes California the third in the U.S. (along with Mississippi and West Virginia) to offer no religious, philosophical or other personal belief exemptions to immunization requirements, and the first to roll back a prior such exemption. While it is unfortunate that a state would find it necessary to legislate that parents vaccinate their children because of the fear and misinformation surrounding the topic, the low levels of herd immunity in California which allowed the measles outbreak from Disneyland to spread so far and wide make it clear how the law will better protect children too young to be vaccinated and those individuals who are immune-compromised (as the woman who died of measles in Washington was). If nothing else, legislators recognized the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and the fact that their benefits outweigh their risks – a win for science.

So it seems there are actually things worth celebrating for today’s Fourth of July. We live in a complicated, heartbreaking, beautiful world, and our country’s diversity – so much a strength – makes it challenging to find ways we can all live together in a nation that (hopefully, eventually, one day) offers justice, equality and the best chance possible for good health to all individuals while also recognizing our differences and our need to decide for ourselves the best way to live our lives without infringing on the lives or rights of others. That’s no small ask or task. We’re stumbling our way in that direction. We have a long way to go. The past two weeks, however, we took a couple significant steps in that direction. Let’s hope we can continue to find our way forward. Happy Fourth of July!

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