Assembly Health Committee Hearing – Just Another Trenton Sideshow

Vaccines are heralded as one of the greatest advancements of mankind in the fight against disease. A kid can’t go to school without them. It’s the law. But, with 74 vaccines now mandatory for school attendance, thousands of New Jersey parents object to their children bombarded with such an onslaught of chemicals. Their only option is a religious exemption. Last week, Assembly bill A3818 was proposed to put severe restrictions on this alternative. With so many families facing home-schooling, a predictable grass roots backlash is taking hold. On April 5, a hearing was scheduled before the State Assembly Health Committee to listen to public testimony before voting on the bill.

District 7 Assemblyman Herb Conaway was the architect of this legislation. Herb Conaway, physician, politician, sponsor of over twenty pieces of legislation, knows his way around the chamber. He knows how to get things done. He knows how to get what he wants. Herb Conaway must have known that if he introduced his bill on March 29, the day before Good Friday, the day before Passover, the day when everyone’s packing their bags for spring break, there’d be no dissension.

Herb Conaway must have known that if got it on the public hearing calendar fast enough, no one would have time to review or debate his proposal. New Jersey has a rich history of bills being railroaded through. With April 5 only two working days away, Herb must have known that he could engineer a favorable outcome.

A sizeable crowd was expected. He rattled off the names of over 100 “opposed” depositions before the oral testimonies even began. There would have been more if they didn’t run out of forms. Could a larger room have been procured to accommodate such a substantial audience? Possibly. There are bigger venues in the statehouse. We’ll never know. That would not have fit Dr. Conaway’s agenda. Better to pack the overflow into smaller anterooms with closed circuit tv’s. Rule of thumb: always kill the appearance of a large opposition.

The first item on the day’s agenda was a bill to modify insurance company demands that put undue burden on doctors. There were six testimonies, each between five and ten minutes long. But when A3818 came up, testimonies were limited to sixty seconds. One minute. One minute for people who had prepared ten pages. One minute for a father to relive how his baby son’s death was linked to vaccines. One minute for a mother to relate the unending anguish of raising a brain-damaged child exposed to unforeseen toxins.

One minute. Dr. Conaway was on it. He could drown every statement with “Ten seconds…Time!” One man exposed clandestine bonuses that insurance companies pay doctors to administer wholesalevaccines. His eye-opening information was barely out of his mouth when “ten seconds…time!”  Another spoke of the ineffectiveness of County Medical Examiner autopsies in determining the “real” cause of his recently vaccinated dead baby. His heart-wrenching story compressed to “ten seconds…time!” A sobbing woman emotionally describing life with a vaccine-related autistic child. Her story needed to be told. It needed to be heard. It needed more than “ten seconds…time!”

A chiropractor who has studied vaccines for twenty years explained the side effects of chemicals common in vaccines. He spoke of formaldehyde and aluminum. Of thimerosal which is banned in Europe. He could have gone on and on except for “ten seconds…time!” A woman from the Ukraine strained through her European accent to find the right words describing how she fled to the United States for the freedom of religious choices. This bill, she said, denied her right to: “Ten seconds…time!” One after another railed against the state’s attempt to encroach on their religious beliefs. On how the inclusion of aborted fetal tissue in vaccines violates their doctrines. How planting cells from monkeys and bovines contradicts their teachings. These testimonies take time. Some controversial issues are allotted multiple hearings: gun control, legal recreational marijuana, pension reform. But not themandatory 74 vaccines. The assurance of A3818’s passage could not, must not, be jeopardized. No; the smart money’s on the clock: “Ten seconds…Time!”

Sixty-four testimonies; names called randomly from a list. Sixty-four “opposed” in no particular order. Except the last two. Two arguments supporting the state mandated program. Ironically they would be the last words the committee would hear. Coincidence or was Dr. Herb tilting the playing field?

Jersey born and bred, I have a natural bent toward skepticism and suspected the whole affair merely adog and pony show. Politics as usual.  I watched the panel closely through the proceedings. Except for Assemblyman Armato from District 2, periodically preoccupied with his phone, they were all steadfastly concentrated on the oral presentations. I hoped to be wrong. Had the panel really listened? Were they actually moved by the outpouring of desperation and emotion of so many parents?

Regrettably my instincts didn’t fail me. Immediately after Dr. Conaway commended the crowd for their decorum and calm testimony amidst such an emotionally charged topic, the bill passed. The dam of decorum blew out! Men cursed and threatened and damned their elected officials. Women, who for hours had tried quieting their crying babies, stood perplexed and offended. The vote, taken so quickly and quietly had almost escaped us. I wondered if the mikes had been turned off. “Seven in favor. Three opposed. The bill is passed.”, announced Dr. Conaway. And then he turned to his left and smiled. The smile turned to laughter; so cavalier in his victory. So oblivious to the 300 broken hearts that begged to be heard. To those hoping that with so much anecdotal and scientific evidence, at least the matter would be tabled for further discussion. Doesn’t such volatility, such controversy of individual choice and religious freedom call for more debate? Apparently not. Certainly not in Trenton.

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