Mother knows best?

When health is concerned, who gets the last word?

By Sarah Sidlow

Michigan mother  Rebecca Bredow went to jail for defying a judge’s order to have her 9-year-old son vaccinated. (Record scratch.) You’re probably wondering how we ended up here.

Let’s back up. Rebecca Bredow and her husband, James Horne, are in the midst of a custody battle over their 9-year-old son, who hadn’t had a vaccination shot in his life—until recently.

As part of the dispute, father/husband James Horne indicated he wants their son to get vaccinated. Months ago, the judge, Karen McDonald, granted Horne temporary custody of their son and ordered him to be vaccinated—an order mother and primary custody holder Bredow signed, and then ignored. She was sentenced to a week in jail for contempt of court, during which time father Horne was granted temporary custody of the child and ordered to have him vaccinated. Apparently not wanting to meet up with Bredow in jail, Horne has now had the son vaccinated. No take-backsies.

Bredow says she isn’t totally against vaccinations. Rather, her position stems from the belief that mothers should have the choice to vaccinate their children—and certainly shouldn’t be required by the state to make this or any other health choices for their families. This, she says, is her religious belief.

“I’m a passionate mother who cares deeply about my children, their health, and their well-being,” Bredow said during a court hearing. “If my child was forced to be vaccinated, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Clap-back from Judge McDonald: “I understand you love your children. But what I don’t think you understand is that your son has two parents, and dad gets a say.” And also: “It’s clear to me that you don’t care about orders even if you agree to them, which you did.”

The whole thing has left people with a lot of raised eyebrows. The safety and efficacy of vaccinations has come under scrutiny over the last few years, as prominent politicians and other public figures have made their stances on the issue known, some even positing a link between certain vaccinations and autism. But what, if any, say should a legislative body have on the decision to vaccinate your child?

Many argue this is an example of the courts overstepping their bounds. We won’t get into the whole America = freedom thing here, but you get the gist. Others are accusing the court and Judge McDonald of harassment toward the 9-year-old son, for making him feel that he may be less safe without vaccines.

Others argue that, for better or worse, the courts have other things they should be focusing their time (and taxpayer resources) on. The judge’s decision to call Bredow’s bluff and give her a time-out is all well and good until you think about the fact that there are violent criminals who probably need the real estate Bredow is now taking up.

But what about the fact that mom and dad were in court over a custody battle—not a vaccination? The fact that custody battles and other familial matters are part of the court’s jurisdiction necessarily places the burden on the courts to make decisions about children’s wellbeing. If that’s a trust we place in our legal process, are we also giving them permission to weigh in on more specific matters like vaccinations (or diet, or psychological counseling, etc.)?

Reach Dayton City Paper forum moderator Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Question of The Week: To what extent should the courts have a say in parents’ decisions regarding their children’s health?


We need a hysteria vaccine

The media largely misrepresenting the Bredow case

By Don Hurst

Oh my god. Hide your husbands. Hide your kids. Hide your wives. Jackbooted government thugs are out there arresting loving mothers who are standing up against big pharma and not allowing their precious babies to get vaccinated. The police are ripping children away from women and handing them over to diabolical fathers who want to inject them with poison!

Sure that’s hyperbole, but that’s how most of the reporting on the Bredow case reads. Sensationalistic clickbait. Let’s all take a collective breath, ignore the Facebook fake news, and focus on the facts of this case. When you do that, Judge Karen McDonald’s decision to arrest Mrs. Bredow for contempt of court is way more reasonable.

Even though the anti-vaccination movement has led to an outbreak of measles in the United States, I’m not for judges arresting parents for not vaccinating their children, but that’s not what this case is about. The media mischaracterizes this as an attack on parental rights and religious freedom. Digging a bit deeper, we learn this case isn’t about vaccinations. It’s a child custody dispute struggling with how to reconcile stark parental differences.

Rebecca Bredow and her ex-husband, James Horne, are both the child’s biological and legal parents. Bredow objected to vaccinations on religious grounds while Horne wanted vaccinations for health reasons, and when two divorced parents cannot reach an agreement in Michigan, they go to court.

Judge McDonald would not have considered forcing vaccinations in a child custody dispute if both parents were against it, however, in this case, she had to consider the wishes of the father. The child has two parents. Barring abandonment or abuse issues, both parents have an equal say in how a child is raised.

During the hearing, Bredow could have presented evidence that vaccinations would harm her son, either genetic testing or side effects from the child’s past vaccinations, but Bredow did not have that kind of evidence. Her arguments focused on her preference and religious objections. Horne’s legal team pointed at the significant body of research indicating that vaccines are safe and do less harm than polio.

Peer reviewed scientific evidence…or stuff I read on Facebook? Hmmmm. Is that really a tough decision? All things being equal, a judge will side with the parent who has facts on their side.

Judge McDonald awarded Bredow full custody, dependent on the child receiving vaccinations. Bredow agreed and signed the binding legal order, and the judge gave Bredow a year to comply.

Fast forward a year later and Bredow stands up in court and says that she refuses to vaccinate despite the judge’s multiple warnings of failure of compliance. At that point, Bredow did not leave the judge many options but to issue the contempt of court warrant. Bredow acted in bad faith. She lied to the judge. She lied to the birth father. She made an empty promise just so she could win the custody dispute.

The judge did not issue the warrant because not vaccinating a child is a criminal offense. The judge issued the warrant because Bredow willfully violated the terms of the child custody judgment and indicated she had zero intent to honor the findings of the court.

You can substitute vaccinations with any of the other terms of the custody agreement and the result should be the same. Father doesn’t want to pay child support. Go to jail. Mother does not allow visitation. Go to jail. Father takes the child to Mexico and won’t return to the U.S. Go to jail.

Arresting Bredow is a bold step, but parents need to understand that consequences exist for violating child custody agreements. Allowing parents to pick and choose which portions of the order to follow only leads to protracted court battles and emotional harm to children. It was ugly, but necessary.

The fact that social media and news organizations have howled in outrage over the injustice of Bredow’s 5-day imprisonment shows how hysterical the information landscape has become. The feared connection between vaccines and autism are founded in Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s debunked study from 1997. That study had so many ethical violations and undisclosed conflicts of interest that Wakefield lost his medical license, and despite all the research, scientists have not proven any links between vaccines and autism. In places with large anti-vaccination populations, like Taliban held regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, children are dying from largely eradicated diseases like polio.

If news organizations felt more compelled to present all the facts rather than spread click bait, then this story would most likely never have gone national. Everyone take a deep breath. Judges aren’t forcing you to act against your religious or quasi-scientific convictions. The cops aren’t kicking down your door and kidnapping your children to give them life-saving shots. This is just a judge caught between two parents with different opinions.

Don Hurst is a combat vet and a former police officer. He now lives in Dayton where he writes novels and plays. Reach DCP freelance writer Don Hurst at DonHurst@DaytonCityPaper.com.


Forced vaccinations and judicial overreach

The law can’t force me to vaccinate my child

By Tim Walker

I fought them with everything I had. Boy, did I fight. In one of my earliest memories I recall myself, a 5-year-old growing up in West Virginia, on a trip to the doctor’s office for a sore throat. The doctor—old, overweight, and hairy, no doubt a smoker back in those halcyon days of 1970—explained to my mom that I would need an “inoculation”—thinking, I’m sure, that my kindergarten-aged self wouldn’t know what the hell he was talking about. Boy, was he wrong. (I’ve always been high verbal).

They brought the needle, as they always do, and I fought. I thrashed, I kicked, I screamed. I recall at least five—it may have been as many as six or seven—nurses and orderlies and the police and innocent bystanders with help from the Pittsburgh Steelers holding me down, restraining me, so the doctor could jam a needle into my virgin behind and take care of those bad germs that were so intent on overcoming my little body, starting at the throat.

Vaccines, and antibiotics. No, I certainly wasn’t a fan of them as a child. And now, as a parent, I’m still a bit uneasy when it comes to my children receiving their standard shots from their friendly pediatric doctor (although, I hasten to add, I DO get them done). And yet I hesitate—and with good reason—I think: in the 1950’s, a child would receive a total of 7 vaccines by the age of 6. In 2013, that number had increased by 414 percent—that same child will now receive over 36 vaccines by their sixth birthday.

Edward Jenner, considered the founder of vaccinology in the West in 1796, had no idea what can of worms he was opening when he inoculated a 13-year-old boy back in the day with vaccinia virus—cowpox—and then demonstrated an immunity on the part of the patient to smallpox. In 1798, the first smallpox vaccine was subsequently developed. Later, over the 18th and 19th centuries, systematic implementation of mass immunization culminated in the announced global eradication of smallpox in 1979.

Vaccines. A good idea then. Evidently, a legal requirement now.

Rebecca Bredow, a Michigan woman, just spent five days in jail because she chose to defy a judge who ordered her to have her 9-year-old son vaccinated, an act which she claims violates her religious beliefs. “I was trying to protect my kids,” Rebecca Bredow, who lives in the Detroit area, told the local ABC News affiliate. “I was trying to stand up for what I believed in, and it was worth it for me to try and take the risk, because I was trying to stop the vaccinations from happening. Never in a million years did I ever think that I would end up in jail for standing up to try to protect my kids, and standing up for my beliefs,” Bredow added.

Now please understand—I’m no acolyte of “anti-vaxxer” Jenny McCarthy. I do not believe that vaccines are responsible for autism. I do not feel that the mercury preservative that I’ve been told is a part of all vaccinations is responsible for ADHD or other cognitive difficulties in children. I simply feel that as the father of four children, including one who has special needs, I have every right to question the health care administered to those same children, be it exams, vaccinations, therapy, etc.

No judge—NO judge—has the right to tell me, or any parent, what is best when it comes to our children’s healthcare. The legal system is not raising my kids, or even babysitting them on the odd Saturday night. The judge, seated comfortably on his bench, has no idea what sort of allergies my child has, or what reactions various medications might cause to a child. And, with President Trump loudly braying from the White House that he is going to protect the religious freedoms of all Americans, how can this even be an issue? If a parent chooses to worship a God who he or she claims feels the medical interventions of human medical professionals aren’t required for good health—misguided and dangerous though those ideas may be—then isn’t that same freedom protected by the Constitution?

There are those who will argue with my beliefs on this subject. There are many who will say that the judge was right to protect the child… that in some circumstances the law must be used in order to keep unfit parents from committing acts which harm their children. And yet…

When it comes to vaccinations, the monetary influence of pharmaceutical cartels, the decisions of doctors, and—ultimately—even the decision of a judge ruling from on high, must take a back seat to the wishes and decisions of the parent. To insist otherwise is a violation of our most basic tenets, and undermines the family structures that are the foundation of our society.

Tim Walker, 52, is a writer, DJ, and chili cook. He lives with his wife and their two children in Northridge, and you can read more of his work at StretchYourBrains.com. Reach him at TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Sarah Sidlow
Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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