An Iowa Senate proposal to require parental consent for vaccines related to STDs and STIs passed a subcommittee on Wednesday. Advocates for the bill highlighted safety concerns as well as the importance of parents to provide informed consent. Opponents of the bill claimed minors should be allowed to consent to such shots without parental involvement. 

Kady Reese of the Iowa Medical Society and Iowa Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics said the organizations are against the bill because they recognize vaccination is a “primary source” of STI prevention. Reese, who noted the importance of not impeding on the patient-provider relationship, claimed the vaccines are safe and effective. 

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The medical lobby was unanimous in its opposition to, repeating the “safe and effective” line regarding the HPV vaccine specifically.

Laura Hessburg of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence said the organization is opposed to the bill because medical professionals made it “quite clear” the vaccines work to protect against STI infection. Hessburg said it is important the vaccine is available for victims of rape, domestic abuse and human trafficking. 

Angela Caulk with the Family Planning Council of Iowa spoke against the bill, noting that federal law requires access to the HPV vaccine. 

Republican State Sen. Dennis Guth, who authored the bill, said he would like to see how the medical lobby justifies the claim the shots are safe and effective.

“I do not believe that the proof actually is there for safe and effective,” he said. “Gardasil has plenty of conflicting evidence in that up until the COVID vaccine it was known as the most dangerous vaccine that we have.”

Lindsay Maher of Informed Choice Iowa said the organization supports the bill and emphasized the fact the bill does nothing to restrict access to the HPV vaccine, it just removes a minor’s ability to consent to the shot. 

“It’s still allowing parents and their children to have access as long as the parent has provided consent,” Maher said. “What we’re actually discussing here is whether or not parents are giving consent or if people are given this vaccine without their parents’ knowledge.”

Maher said federal law requires a vaccine information statement to be given prior to the administration of any vaccine on the childhood schedule. That includes the Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines. Federal law also requires that statement be given to a parent. 

“This was recently brought to light in an April 2022 court case that ruled Washington D.C. could not allow minors to consent to the COVID vaccine. 

Chaney Yeast, lobbyist for Blank Children’s Hospital, said all other immunizations require parental consent, but because the HPV vaccine is related to STDs minors can and should be able to consent without involving their mom or dad. 

“We know not all the time are parents a safe place for kids to talk about their sexuality,” Yeast said. “We hope that we are advocating and arming parents with that information and how to have those level-headed conversations with their kids so their kids feel free and open to have those discussions with their parents. But not all parents offer that safe environment to have those conversations.”

Yeast repeated the claim that the medical lobby knows HPV vaccines are safe and effective.

Courtney Collier testified in support of the bill and reminded the subcommittee that an Iowa family was in court on Wednesday due to the death of their son, Christopher Bunch, who died after receiving the HPV shot.

Collier said the neurologist who cared for Bunch at the University of Iowa wrote a peer-reviewed paper on how the death resulted from the HPV vaccine. 

“Safe and effective is simply a marketing slogan created by those who sell vaccines,” she said. “Minors cannot consent to a tanning bed, ear piercing, tattoos or the like without parental consent. All medical procedures also need parental consent. Medications and vaccinations must require parental consent. This should be common sense as parents are the legacy authority and responsible party for their minors.”

Collier also informed the committee that the federal government has paid out more than $5 billion since 1986 due to vaccine injuries or deaths. 

Oliver Bardwell of Iowans 4 Freedom shared a story about taking his daughter into the doctor for a sports physical. Bardwell said he called the office prior to the visit and informed them he did not want the shot given to his child. 

“I got to the doctor’s office and there’s a syringe sitting on the counter when we go in the office,” Bardwell said. 

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Bardwell was told by staff his daughter needed the HPV vaccine. After telling her he already called and told the office his daughter would not receive the shot, he received a look like he was a “criminal.”

“I don’t think it’s fair or right or ethical to put that kind of pressure on a kid,” Bardwell said. “That’s a decision for a family. When we talk about a safe place, there’s no safer place than a child with their family making those decisions together.”

COVID woke people up to the lies of “Big Pharma,” Bardwell said. 

“This bill is important,” he said. “I was shocked to learn that kids are getting vaccinated without their parents’ consent in Iowa against federal law.”

Gabby Fistler, who testified in support of the bill as a concerned mother, said parental transparency and informed consent is “fundamental” in both ethics and law. 

Fistler said the HPV virus has more than 200 types and generally causes no symptoms. Ninety percent of the time it resolves within two years. 

Mazie Stilwell, who represents Planned Parenthood, spoke in opposition as she claimed the plural of anecdotes is not data. 

“We know that there are so many professional organizations represented who have affirmed the efficacy of these vaccines,” Stilwell said on behalf of the nation’s largest abortion provider. “Frankly I am reassured to know that the healthcare professionals in our state are so invested in protecting our patients and their children.”

Stilwell also claimed not all homes are safe homes and the organization supports children’s ability to keep their bodies safe. Stilwell called the legislation a “dangerous bill.”

Tyler Gibson, a Davenport resident, testified against the bill. He said he was raised in a home that had “very sincere religious beliefs” but sex wasn’t something he was allowed to learn about. 

“As a state and society, sometimes we have to look out for the interest of kids when parents might perhaps have the wrong personal opinions that aren’t thinking about what’s best for the long-term health of a child and their development,” he said. “We should continue to do our best to allow medical professionals to sometimes support children who are in families that don’t want them to have access to certain information.”

Republican State Sen. Kevin Alons stressed the bill isn’t about access to the HPV vaccine, but consent. 

“There’s nothing in this bill that would take away the ability to get the vaccine,” he said. “For me, parental rights obviously are sacrosanct.”

Alons said he researched the HPV vaccine and agrees with Guth that he isn’t convinced the evidence is there to claim it is “safe and effective.” He questioned if people really believe a child can be trusted to make an informed consent type of decision. 

Republican State Sen. Sandy Salmon said there’s a lot of controversy regarding the HPV vaccine. 

“When there’s controversy like this over it, I think we should defer to parental consent for minors to receive it,” she said. 

Both Alons and Salmon supported moving the bill to full committee. 

Democrat State Sen. Zach Wahls said he thinks requiring parental consent for the vaccine would take Iowa down a “very dangerous” track where young Iowans may also need parental consent to treat STIs or receive contraception. 


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