San Francisco Family Law Firm Heath-Newton Says Childhood Vaccination Debate Can Raise Legal Issues

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A new study linking HPV to oral cancer has reignited the debate about whether to immunize children against the virus. San Francisco family law firm Heath-Newton says this debate can become a legal issue when divorced parents with joint custody cannot come to agreement on the matter.

Divorce Attorney, Family Law, Child Custody Attorney San Francisco

Heath-Newton, LLP is a San Francisco family law practice that focuses on families.

Childhood vaccinations are in the news again. A health study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that oral cancers are on the rise and that HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, is to blame. Experts have suggested that HPV is at the root of up to 95% of non-tobacco related oral cancer. The good news is that there is a vaccine for the virus. The bad news is that it is most effective when administered before a person becomes sexually active. Some groups argue that the vaccine promotes promiscuity.

At a recent televised Republican primary debate, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman chastised Texas governor Rick Perry for an executive order mandating that pre-teen girls get vaccinated for HPV, which is also believed to cause most cases of cervical cancer in the United States.

Bachman argued that the vaccine is not known to be safe, citing an unnamed mother who purportedly told her that the HPV vaccine caused her child’s mental retardation. There was an immediate outcry that there is no evidence to show that the HPV vaccine is unsafe.

Many parents have similar concerns about other vaccines. For years, there were concerns that the MMR vaccine caused autism. Recent studies purport to disprove this, but the argument rages in many homes across the state and nation.

What happens if parents cannot agree regarding if and when to vaccinate their children? Parents with joint legal custody both have the right to make healthcare decisions for a child, and the law expects parents to confer and reach agreement. If agreement is not reached, the issue may be decided by a court. In California, the court will weigh each parent’s argument and decide whether the vaccine is in the best interest of the child. That leaves a lot of room for uncertainty regarding what the court’s decision will be, and the decision may be highly subjective.

For more information about the laws governing healthcare decisions for children, or any other family law matter, please contact Heath-Newton, LLP by calling (415) 992-5038, visit their website, or stop by their office located at 240 Stockton Street, Suite 300 in San Francisco, California.

About Heath-Newton, LLP
Heath-Newton, LLP is a San Francisco family law practice focused on families. These San Francisco divorce attorneys pride themselves on working with clients from all backgrounds and lifestyles. Heath-Newton, LLP specializes in premarital agreements (prenups), same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships, divorce, child support, spousal support, adoption, and child custody in San Francisco and the Bay Area.


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Erik W. Newton
Heath-Newton LLP
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