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4/8/03 UPDATE
GOOD NEWS: SB 342 Has Vaccine Registry Language Removed!

Senator Shapleigh removes OPT-OUT Immunization Registry from SB 342 - Let your Senator know!

Dear PROVE Texas Members -

We have some good news. Senator Shapleigh, the author of the Border Health Initiative Bill SB 342 which contained the bad immunization registry language, has responded to our concerns and completely removed the language from the bill! While there are still 4 other bad bills with this same offensive registry language (SB 39 Zaffirini, HB 1016 Gallego, HB 1921 Capelo, HB 1556 Coleman) that we still need to watch and fight strongly, but this bill SB 342 is no longer a problem. We are grateful to Senator Shapleigh for backing off language that would remove current codified parental and medical privacy rights.

Senator Shapleigh's bill, SB 342 is up for a Senate vote on Wednesday April 9th. The Senate convenes at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday and the vote will be sometime after that. Please consider contacting by email or phone your personal Senator Tuesday April 8th or the morning of Wednesday April 9th and informing them that in the past month you may have contacted them to ask them to oppose SB 342 because it contained language that you were opposed to which would have required that all doctors and insurance companies release EVERY child's private immunization record and identifying information, WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT, to the Texas Department of Health to be permanently tagged and tracked in either an immunization surveillance database or a database of "non-consenters" to the registry. Let them know that Senator Shapleigh has responded to your concerns and removed this language and you wanted to let them know you no longer had these concerns about the bill. Now the language just addresses some initiatives to improve health services along the border.

It would also be great if you could email, fax, mail or call Senator Shapleigh's office with just a short message thanking him for removing the immunization language from this bill.

Please strongly consider taking a few minutes to contact YOUR SENATOR even if it is tonight by a phone message or email or a call first thing on Wednesday. It is important for us to give credit where credit is due when one of our elected officials responds to our concerns.

CALL AND EMAIL YOUR OWN SENATOR: To see who represents you, link to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm. Then link to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us and click on Senate Members. Contact phone and email forms can be found on your Senator's web site.

TO CONTACT SENATOR SHAPLEIGH:
Phone: (512) 463-0129
Email: Eliot.Shapleigh@senate.state.tx.us
Fax: (512) 463-0218
Mailing Address: The Honorable Eliot Shapleigh, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711-2068

To View the changes for yourself, link to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us and enter SB 342 and click on the bill text selections for the Senate Committee Report.

Thank you everybody!

Oppose: SB 342 Big Brother Watching You with Vaccine Surveillance System

ALERT TEXAS: BIG BROTHER WATCHING YOU IN SB 342 Oppose SB 342: EVERY CHILD TRACKED AND REGISTERED BY GOVERNMENT

ATTENTION: Senate Public Hearing on Tuesday 3/24 at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Chamber

* Calls, Faxes and emails needed from Friday 3/21 through Monday Morning 3/24 to oppose SB 342 * Testimony needed in Austin at Public Hearing on Monday 3/24

Dear PROVE members,

On this Monday, March 24, 2003, at 1:30 p.m., the State Affairs Committee will have a public hearing on a bill, SB 342, that would gut parental rights and medical privacy provisions in the current law and require that all doctors and insurance companies release EVERY child's private immunization record and identifying information, WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT, to the Texas Department of Health to be permanently tagged and tracked in either an immunization surveillance database or a database of "non-consenters" to the registry.

Please contact the members of this committee and come to testify against the bill! We need you in Austin. The details are below.

SB 342, by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, according to his own bill analysis, is supposed to be a bill to improve health care of people along the Mexico border, but controversial language is inserted in here having nothing to do with border health issues.

Senator Shapleigh is also claiming that SB 342 changes the registry from OPT-IN to OPT-OUT and that is dangerously deceptive. There is no OPTING-OUT of having your child's records released to the department: it is a FORCED RELEASE that you cannot stop. The burden of consent would be shifted where a parent would have to OPT-OUT of the registry itself, and the only way they could accomplish this would be by writing directly to the Health Department, the very department parents didn't want their child's records going to in the first place. Under this bill, the action of opting out would cause the child's personal identifiable information to be entered into another state health department computer file of "non-consenters" (called a firewall database by TDH) accomplishing their intrusive goal of tagging and tracking every single child. This is a huge step backwards for parental and medical privacy rights, and for these reasons, this bill has to be stopped.

Additionally, because Federal Medical Privacy Regulations for HIPAA permit public health disclosures without consent in the absence of a stricter state law requiring consent, the language in SB 342 if passed, would make "opting-out" of other local, state, or federal vaccine tracking systems impossible for parents.

State vaccine tracking registries being promoted in the name of protecting the public health are simply a smokescreen for the creation of yet another big brother government-operated system that will further invade our privacy and take away endangered liberties.

The threat that these registries pose is real: computerized databases operated by the government for the purpose of tagging and tracking every child have been and increasingly will be used to punish citizens for disagreement and non-compliance with government dictated health care or other policies.

The flaw in this plan is that governments don't raise children - parents do, and our ability to protect our children from bureaucratic and industry influence and needs to be fiercely protected.

If you can arrange to be at the hearing Monday afternoon March 24th at 1:30 p.m, in the Senate chamber, please go. It is important that you are heard. If you can't be there, then please at least contact the committee members during the day on Friday March 21st, over the weekend, and Monday morning March 24th. Let them know how you feel about SB 342, by Senator Eliot Shapleigh.

1) CONTACT all the members of the Senate State Affairs Committee, the Lieutenant Governor, Governor and your own Senator today (3/21) through Monday morning (3/24) urging them to OPPOSE SB 342 by Senator Shapleigh.

CALL: Senator Bill Ratliff, chair - 512-463-0101
Senator Todd Staples, vice-chair - 512-463-0103
Senator Kenneth Armbrister - 512-463-0118
Senator Robert Duncan - 512-463-0128
Senator Rodney Ellis - 512-463-0113
Senator Troy Fraser - 512-463-0124
Senator Chris Harris - 512-463-0109
Senator Frank Madla - 512-463-0119
Senator Jane Nelson - 512-463-0112
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (512) 463-0001
Governor Rick Perry (512) 463-2000

On all calls, please be polite, and respectful. Introduce yourself and state where you live.

Talking Points in Opposition to SB 342

* SB 342 is a HUGE step backwards for parental and medical privacy rights. Please encourage Senator ______ to vote against this bill.

* The current vaccine registry law is OPT-IN. It correctly requires my doctor, insurance company or the health department to get my consent before releasing my child's record or entering it into the registry.

* This bill contains language that would undo these protections by requiring doctors and insurance companies to release every child's record to TDH without parental consent. I am strongly opposed to this.

* As the parent of MY child, it should be MY responsibility and MY responsibility alone to determine who gets to see my child's medical record.

* The OPT-OUT provision in this bill is a scam because my child's records would be sent to TDH no matter what. A parent would have to track TDH down and make the request in writing to have their child's vaccine record removed, however the action of opting out would then cause the child's personal identifiable information to be permanently entered into another TDH computer file of "non-consenters" (called a firewall database by TDH).

* This bill set up a confrontational big brother like monitoring system subjecting "non-consenters" to scrutiny and potential sanctions by insurance companies, health care providers, and other unforeseen abuses.

* If I trusted TDH to have any of this information on my child, I would have OPTED-IN under the current law to begin with. TDH has a history of blatant disregard for parental and medical privacy rights under the current law. Millions of children were found to have been entered illegally without the parental consent required and some parents who have found their children entered without consent have tried unsuccessfully to have their child removed.

* I do not want to have my child's medical details released to persons I do not know, for purposes I cannot predict, which may be contrary to my child's best interests.

* Not all vaccines are safe, effective, or necessary for all children.

* Doctors, insurance companies, and TDH should have to continue to operate under the current law and obtain my permission in order to release any portion of my child's confidential medical record or enter it into a government database. If you let them rationalize releasing a child's medical record for this without parental consent, what and who will be next?

* Please consider that there are a lot more people in Senator _____'s district that expect to be asked permission before their minor children's medical records are released than there are people who want to take them behind parents' backs without their consent.

* My experience with TDH, vaccine reactions or harassment is.

FAX AND EMAIL Committee Members - Refer to the sample letter below.

Senator Bill Ratliff, chair - FAX (512) 475-3751
Senator Todd Staples, vice-chair - FAX (512) 463-1526
Senator Kenneth Armbrister - FAX (512) 475-3736
Senator Robert Duncan - FAX (512) 463-2424
Senator Rodney Ellis - FAX (512) 463-0006
Senator Troy Fraser - FAX (512) 475-3732
Senator Chris Harris - FAX (512) 463-7003
Senator Frank Madla - FAX (512) 463-1017
Senator Jane Nelson - FAX (512) 463-0923
Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst - FAX (512) 463-0677
Governor Rick Perry - FAX (512) 463-1849

Todd.Staples@senate.state.tx.us, Kenneth.Armbrister@senate.state.tx.us, Robert.Duncan@senate.state.tx.us, Rodney.Ellis@senate.state.tx.us, Troy.Fraser@senate.state.tx.us, Chris.Harris@senate.state.tx.us, Frank.Madla@senate.state.tx.us, Jane.Nelson@senate.state.tx.us (note that Senator Ratliff does not have an email address)

ASK FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO CALL, FAX AND EMAIL Friends who want less government interference in their lives will see the problems here very clearly.

CALL AND EMAIL YOUR OWN SENATOR To see who represents you, link to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/fyi.htm.  Then link to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us and click on Senate Members. Contact phone and email forms can be found on your Senator's web site.

You can use the same letter form below.

2) COME TESTIFY IN PERSON at the Senate Public Hearing of the Committee on State Affairs against SB 342.

Monday, 3/24 1:30 p.m. or upon adjournment in the Senate Chamber Texas State Capitol, at 12th Street and Congress Ave., Austin Texas

We need you here - Doctors and drug companies who make money on vaccines will be out in full force. Write your testimony out ahead of time so you can practice it - it needs to be around 3 minutes long in case time limits are imposed.

You need to be here before 1:30 p.m. because SB 342 is listed to be the first bill heard. When you get to the Senate Chamber, pick up a Witness Affirmation Form and fill it out against SB 342. Make sure you sign the form. Find a committee clerk to give the form to. You need to know that there is a possibility they may start a little later than 1:30 if the full Senate has not adjourned yet. In that case, we need to just wait outside the Senate Chamber until they let us in. Since we have no way of knowing, we have to be there on time.

The committee will call on you when it is your turn to give your testimony.

GENERAL INFORMATION:

Parking is available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets. Parking is free for the first two hours and $.75 for each half hour thereafter (maximum charge: $6.00). Metered spaces are available throughout the complex.

Directions to visitor parking garage: From IH-35 in Austin, take the 15th Street Exit heading west toward the Capitol. A few blocks down, take a left onto San Jacinto. The entrance to the Capitol visitor parking garage is a couple of blocks down on your left on the intersection 13th Street and San Jacinto. The entrance in on 13th Street. The Capitol grounds are just 1 1/2 blocks due west from the front of the garage. (just look up and walk towards the dome of the capitol.) When you get inside, because it will depend on which door you go in, ask the security guards for the stairs or elevators to get to the Senate Chamber.

There is a cafeteria available in the Capitol Extension on floor E1.

SUGGESTIONS FOR EMAILS, FAXES AND TESTIMONY

[YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS] [DATE]

The Honorable [SENATOR'S NAME] Box 12068 Austin, TX 78711-2068

Dear Senator [SENATOR'S NAME],

Please oppose SB 342 by Senator Shapleigh. SB 342 will be heard in the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday, March 24th.

[PERSONALIZED BODY - THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IS KEEP THE TOTAL LETTER LENGTH TO ONE PAGE OR LESS TO MAKE SURE IT IS READ - THAT WILL ALSO KEEP YOUR TESTIMONY TO 3 MINUTES.

CUSTOMIZE SOME OF THE TALKING POINTS INCLUDED ABOVE UNDER THE CALL SECTION INTO YOUR OWN WORDS RELATING TO YOUR OWN PERSONAL STORY AND WHAT THIS BILL REPRESENTS TO YOU.]

Sincerely, [YOUR NAME AND CREDENTIALS]

If you would like to read the bill for yourself, you can link to http://www.capitol.state.tx.us and enter SB 342 and click on the bill text selections.

If you are new to this issue and don't fully understand why killing this bill is so important, please visit http://www.vaccineinfo.net/issues/tracking/txregistry/outline.shtml and http://www.vaccineinfo.net/issues/tracking/nationalregistry/nationalindex.shtml  for a complete history of the abuses and dangers of the Texas Immunization Tracking system and government immunization tracking systems in general. Thank you for your help!

Here is the letter I've already sent to every committee member from PROVE.

PLEASE OPPOSE SB 342: Bill Guts Parental and Medical Privacy Rights

Scheduled for Public Hearing on Monday, 3/24/03, Senate State Affairs Committee

As parents, we can all relate to the challenges of teaching our children right from wrong. One basic universal lesson from childhood is that you don't take something that doesn't belong to you without permission.

This fundamental ethical principal is the primary reason why the Texas Legislature overwhelmingly passed and Governor Bush signed a law in 1997 requiring doctors to ask a parent's permission before they release a child's confidential immunization record and enter it into a state government operated immunization surveillance database.

Senator Shapleigh and some medical trade associations are alleging in SB 342 that fundamental parental and medical privacy rights are a burden and not worth preserving. They want to gut the current law and require that all doctors and insurance companies release every child's private immunization record and identifying information to the Texas Department of Health without parental consent. Under their proposal, a written request by a parent directly to the state agency to remove their child from the registry would trigger the child's information being moved to yet another TDH database of "non-consenters," still resulting in the tagging and tracking of every single child. Even though there would be nothing a parent could do to stop the unauthorized release of their child's records to TDH or to prevent their child from being included in a TDH database of dissidents, they are deceptively calling this proposal an "opt-out" system.

It gets worse. While registry proponents have been promising that the data is safe and secure, for the last six years they have been stealing it behind our backs in total defiance of the current law.

Almost a year after the required informed consent law was passed, a legislative staffer who personally worked on the legislation learned that his children were being tracked by TDH without his permission. This prompted a legislative inquiry by Senator Jerry Patterson, which revealed that 3.3 million Texas children had been entered illegally by TDH. Personal information, including names, addresses and parents' Social Security numbers, had been downloaded into the immunization database from the child's confidential birth certificate records. Although a peace offering by the health commissioner resulted in hundreds of thousands of these illegally obtained records being purged, many parents have reported that even though they never gave consent, their children are still in the database and their attempts to have their child's record removed have been unsuccessful.

It didn't stop there.

Today, TDH obtains what they consider to constitute positive "opt-in" informed consent from a one millimeter-sized check box on the birth certificate application to which hospital staff frequently check "yes" for the mother who is busy delivering her baby at the time the form is filled out. Parents who have known to ask for the form to consciously look and check off "no" on registry consent question 19(b) have reported that hospital staff sometimes will even retype their form and change the answer to yes. These subversive tactics are the way that TDH is able to make the highly questionable claim that all these parents "want" to participate in the registry.

The public needs to know that the reasoning of those who are attacking our current "opt-in" law is weak; as weak as their efforts have been to follow it.

For example, we don't have an immunization rate problem; we have bureaucrats with a self-serving math deficiency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization surveys cited include more doses of vaccines than our state law requires, so even when children are fully immunized according to the law in Texas, they don't count. The truth is that when looking at individual rates for individual vaccines, we are already in the 80 and 90 percentiles for 2-year-olds and in the high 90 percentile overall for kids entering kindergarten. (See report posted at http://www.vaccineinfo.net/immunization/rates/index.shtml)

In fact, gutting the existing parental consent provisions would put parents who care about medical privacy in the position of having to choose between having their kids vaccinated or keeping their children's medical records out of an intrusive government database. That can only have a negative affect on immunization rates.

Just as many parents don't want the state tracking and micromanaging their health-care choices for their children, many private practice doctors have no interest in having their practices watched and their performance delivering vaccines rated. We've spoken with many doctors who feel they can keep track of a child's records just fine and don't want or need any help from TDH. Forcing a doctor to release the confidential medical record of a child against the will of a parent will drive a wedge of mistrust in a relationship crucial to the health of the child.

Since the only way TDH is willing to populate a statewide immunization tracking system is through deceit and brute force, maybe it doesn't need to exist at all. Certainly the legislature should not reward unethical and illegal behavior with more power and control. They should look for ways to make TDH and doctors follow the existing law as Representative Corte has done in HB 2842. In the meantime, do you know where your children's medical records are?

Thank you.

Sincerely, Dawn Richardson, President Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education

 
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