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Legislation for Tyranny?

By Kathryn A. Serkes

Supporters of the nanny-state figured out a few years ago that they could guilt politicians into doing just about anything if was done "for the children." But in our post 9/11 world, "for the kids" has been replaced with "to fight terrorism" as the rallying cry for the social engineers' blatant government-power grabs. And they expect you and legislators to roll over and play dead while they hand us a little piece of tyranny.

Across the country, states, including Washington, have been quietly considering the Model Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA), a bill touted as an emergency plan for bioterrorism or the threat of a crisis. Sounds good, but read the fine print.
Most of the bills would give governors unprecedented powers-including the authority to force mass vaccinations, to ration medical care and to confiscate and operate medical facilities during a health emergency.

Not alarmed yet? In this scheme, the governor has sole and absolute authority to declare a public health emergency, or the possibility of an emergency-which is whatever he says it is. The declaration could continue for 60 days, or until the (unelected) State Health Officer terminates it if the governor agrees to the extension. Your elected legislators have no power to interfere or to suspend the declaration.
Dangled as the proverbial carrot is a share of a wad of federal money for states that enact the provisions, a compelling temptation to legislators facing cash-starved budgets this year. The bill introduced in Olympia was one of the most frank about the money grab-it crunches down to the penny the amount of money the bill is worth.

The Model Act is a product of the government's Centers for Disease Control, but was ordered last summer, long before 9/11. A draft has been kicking around policy circles since 1993 when its author, attorney Lawrence O. Gostin, peddled the ideas as a member of Hillary Clinton's Health Care Task Force working group for socialized medicine.

The language of the Model Act speaks as a testament to those who want to give the government control of all medical care in the U.S. Health officials would be allowed to order us all to submit to medical testing and specimen collection. If they don't like what they find, they can order mandatory quarantine and medical treatment, including vaccinations. If you or your doctor don't go along with the program, you face prosecution.

But the powers don't end when the emergency does. The Act requires ongoing surveillance, and reporting of your activities, diagnoses and symptoms without your knowledge or consent. The CDC has long wanted to implement their National Health Surveillance System for ongoing government tracking.

The only contagious disease that is a credible biological warfare threat is smallpox. But there are many scientifically valid arguments against mass smallpox vaccines, such as serious side effects (including death). Plus, the strain used in an attack could be vaccine-resistant, subjecting us to all of the dangers of vaccination while reaping no benefit at all.

So how far do these bills go? The government or public health director can trigger these powers in face of an "imminent threat of an illness or health condition that poses a substantial risk." 'The threat need not be caused by bioterrorism, but by the appearance of a "potentially fatal infectious agent caused by a living organism."

That leaves a lot of wiggle room for definitions. In fact, the flu would qualify. Would the handful of recent whooping cough cases in Seattle and Tacoma qualify an unvaccinated child as a "danger to public health" prompting mandatory immunization? The Act could be used to invalidate all vaccine exemptions, including medical and religious ones.

The case could easily be made that this is another very big stick that will be used by the mandatory vaccine crowd. Immunization registries already are being used to spy on families and supply social workers with ammunition to threaten parents with legal action if they don't meet school vaccine requirements. There's a big difference in how Washington and parents define a need for vaccine, witnessed by the woman from DSHS who admitted that the measles vaccine was a good thing because it cut down on parent's time lost from work to take care of a sick child.

We also know that Washington is definitionally-challenged when it comes to figuring out what constitutes an emergency. Dr. Robert Cihak, an Aberdeen physician, reminded me that a few years ago the governor, aided and abetted by the legislature, declared the financing of a sports stadium to be an "emergency." In this case, the bill's term "threat" is even squishier than "emergency."
The good news is that the Washington bill died in committee, albeit for all the wrong reasons. State public health officials figured out that they could meet guidelines for the federal funding without passing a new bill, not because of concerns for the citizens of the state. So the politicians went home happy because they got their asking price for your rights after all.

However, as other states continue down this path, the threat remains if we are willing to give any branch government more power to intrude in our lives. Unless you never stray from your walled castle in the Puget Sound area, you can be at risk. Changing planes in Minneapolis could result in a smallpox vaccination.

A few good legislators have take a difficult public stand against these bills, but they need some back up from the public to derail them. You can sign a letter to President Bush voicing your opposition on the website for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons at www.aapsonline.org, or contact HHS at (877) 696-6773 or http://www.hhs.gov. These emails, and especially phone calls, do make a difference-last year we froze up the email server at HHS with comments on the medical privacy regulations.
Physicians first ethic is to do no harm. Tell politicians you expect no less from them.

Kathryn Serkes, President of Square One Media Network, Seattle, is public affairs consultant for the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and coauthor of "The Patients' Handbook." Contact her at kaserkes@
worldnet.att.net. For more information and links on the Emergency Health Powers Acts, visit the AAPS website at http://www.aapsonline.org.