We are partnering with ParentalRights.org to alert families about legislation in the District of Columbia that not only undermines parents, but could erode homeschool freedom.

The District of Columbia City Council voted to pass a bill (B23-0171) that would permit minor children as young as 11 years old to consent to certain medical treatment without their parent’s consent—or even knowledge. If it passes a second reading (scheduled for November 10), it will be sent to the mayor’s desk, set to become law absent a congressional resolution rejecting it within 30 days.

Home School Legal Defense Association believes children are most likely to thrive when loving parents are empowered to make decisions concerning their welfare. This includes overseeing children’s health care and choosing the type of education best suited for each child.

This presumption that parents act in the best interest of their children also serves as a foundational legal principle in America.

The US Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a right—prior to that of the government—to make decisions concerning their child’s care, stating so eloquently in Pearce v. Society of Sisters that the “child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

And later, in Parham v. J.R., the Court opined what parents everywhere know—that “most children, even in adolescence, simply are not able to make sound judgments concerning many decisions, including their need for medical care or treatment. Parents can and must make those judgments.”

Circumventing Parents

Yet, this bill would permit an 11-year-old to make decisions related to healthcare—in this case, vaccinations—regardless of parental concern.

What’s worse, the new law completely bypasses parental decision-making and notification, even authorizing vaccination administrators to seek direct reimbursement from health insurers without parental consent. So a child may be vaccinated while the child’s parent is wholly unaware of the shots their child received.

Though the bill would be limited to recommended vaccines, the most onerous part of the bill is its complete disregard for parental input and each child’s unique medical history. Current law provides exemptions when a vaccination violates a parent’s religious beliefs or when vaccination is “medically inadvisable.” This proposal would undermine those reservations by permitting 11-year-olds to consent to vaccination.

HSLDA does not take a position on the safety or efficacy of vaccinations, but we do support the fundamental right of parents to direct the education, care, and custody of their children. This bill threatens to further undermine this fundamental right—the same right that makes homeschooling legal in all 50 states and the district.