Ted Cruz Says Federal Government Should Stay Out of States' Vaccine Policy
WILFORD, N.H.—Some voters might think that the vaccine skepticism movement—whose proponents are pejoratively called anti-vaxxers—lost its political oomph this winter. After New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told reporters that vaccination was a choice for parents to make, the backlash found every other likely Republican candidate affirming that he supported vaccinations. That was a blow to activists who have become convinced, by junk science, that the scheduled shots can cause autism. Last week, when New Hampshire anti-vaccine activist Laura Condon asked Christie if he could support expanded exemptions, he shut her down.
“You can't count on me,” Christie said.
Condon wasn’t done. She showed up at a meet-and-greet with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, held at a state representative's home. After confronting this Bloomberg reporter for what she saw as “mean” coverage of the vaccine story, she worked her way into the crowd for Cruz’s lengthy question-and-answer session. Much of the Q&A was broadcast on Periscope; the video below, taken from roughly same angle as that feed, records the unamplified question and Cruz’s answer.
“In Texas, you have a conscientious belief exemptions as part of the GOP platform there,” said Condon. “Is that a human right that you would support for all of us?”
“Thank you for the question, and thank you for your leadership and compassion,” said Cruz. “Let me start with some first principles and then get to the specific question you asked. First principle, number one: I am a passionate defender of religious liberty, and have spent the past two decades of my life fighting for religious liberty. I think we need to honor and protect the very first protection in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Second, I am also a passionate defender of parental rights. I think that nobody loves their children more than parents do.”
The audience of voters and state legislators applauded, as Cruz wound up.
“Now when it comes to vaccines—I support vaccines,” he said. “We have two little girls. We vaccinate our girls. I think it is a good thing to do for your children. I think it is good for public health."
That was much what he'd said in February—albeit to a reporter, not to an activist who, for all he knew, might have a stake in the issue.
“I also think it is a question for the states,” Cruz continued. “We’ve got—I almost think we have a quorum of the legislature here. There are good men and women here who can debate and consider what exemptions to include in the state vaccination. And I trust the states to do that. I think the state legislature is the right forum to consider the pros and cons, to debate it back and forth. I don’t think you should have the federal government intruding. I am a huge believer in the Tenth Amendment. The federal government has no business getting into state vaccine policy. So I trust the men and women here to resolve those questions in a way that’s consistent with public health and also respects the rights of parents and the rights of legislators.”
Cruz’s federalism-first answer did not draw an immediate protest from Condon. Given the backlash to the so-called anti-vaxxers, Cruz was giving just as much support to California legislators who wanted to end their state’s loose exemptions as to anyone who wanted to expand the right to opt out.