The annals of "I'm not antivaccine," part 16: Felonious assault, deadly ordnance, and "vaccine violence," oh, my!

If there’s one thing that will annoy an antivaccinationist, it’s to call her what she is: Antivaccine. While it’s true, as I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, that there are some antivaccinationists who are antivaccine and proud, unabashedly proclaiming themselves antivaccine and making no bones about it, the vast majority of antivaccinationists deny they are antivaccine. They frequently retort that they are “not antivaccine” but rather “pro-vaccine safety” or some such dodge. Most recently, we’ve seen this tack taken by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (and, of course, Bill Maher) himself, the man whose unhinged conspiracy mongering screed was my “gateway” to noticing and deconstructing antivaccine beliefs nearly a decade ago. it’s a refrain I first noticed in a big way when the celebrity face of the antivaccine movement, Jenny McCarthy herself, started using it. Whenever I start hearing that “I’m not antivaccine” refrain, I like to dig up examples of rhetoric from the antivaccine movement to put the lie to that claim. Of course, “dig up” is probably the wrong term; I rarely have to look far, and so it was this time..

Mike Adams let it rip, possibly surpassing even what I thought to be the most vile analogy every made about vaccines. It was by an Marcella Piper-Terry, comparing vaccination to rape. True, it could be argued that comparisons to the Holocaust are worse, but let’s just say it’s a tossup. Not surprisingly, Mikey’s latest rants are in response to California bill SB 277, which is a bill currently wending its way through the California Senate that would eliminate nonmedical exemptions to school vaccine mandates. Of course, any attempt to make exemptions to chool vaccine mandates harder to obtain causes the antivaccine movement to go into paroxysms of Holocaust analogies, complete with images of jackbooted fascists knocking on parents’ doors in the middle of the night, syringes in hand, to throw the parents aside and vaccinate their children forcibly.

Coming back to the rape analogy, that’s where Adams goes with a post entitled Progressive lawmakers in California violate women’s rights with SB 277; children to be physically violated by government without parental consent and SB 277 will unleash “medical civil war” in California as parents demand doctors be arrested for felony assault. The level of paranoia in these screeds is truly beyond belief; that is, unless you’ve never encountered Adams before. Actually, the spin Adams tries to put on this is to make “vaccine choice” a matter of women’s rights:

Seriously, this is stupid even by Mike Adams standards. Here’s a taste of the written version, but to experience the full stupidity, you really need to watch the video:

California lawmakers pushing the mandatory vaccine initiative SB 277 are almost all Democrats. These are the same people who defiantly defend the right of “a woman’s choice” to decide the issue of abortion. We are repeatedly told that abortion is the woman’s choice alone, and that no government, no man and no doctor can force a woman to do something with her body against her will.

This also holds true with the issue of sexual encounters, where we are frequently reminded that NO means NO. If the woman doesn’t consent, then it’s called rape. So what do you call a forced medical intervention that physically violates a woman’s body against her wishes? “Medical rape” doesn’t seem quite appropriate. There must be a more poignant term for it.

Do you see the the problem with this analogy? It’s incredibly obvious. SB 277 has nothing to do with forcing women to receive vaccinations they don’t want. There’s nothing in the bill that would do that, nor is there anything any pro-vaccine advocate proposes that would compel an adult woman (or man) to be vaccinated against her (or his) will. That’s not what school vaccine mandates are about. None of this stops Adams from going full mental jacket antivax on the video, ranting about “toxins” and “formaldehyde” while referring to vaccines “maiming” children and implying that the government will require pregnant women to be vaccinated, thus causing all sorts of birth defects. His antivaccine dog whistles are whistling to the point that even mere humans can hear them behind Adams’ cries of “choice,” “human dignity,” “civil rights,” and “human freedom.”

There’s another aspect of Adams’ truly silly analogy here that might not be obvious on the surface. Adams goes on and on about the supposed disconnect between what liberals believe about women when it comes to reproductive choice and giving consent to sex, as well as its anti-corporatism, to what he describes as their advocacy of giving corporations the power to “violate” women with “forced vaccination.” Think about the assumption behind this whole line of “reasoning” (if you can call it that). The only assumption that makes this argument coherent (if you can call it that and even then it’s still wrong on many other levels) is if you assume that the child is an extension of the woman’s body. Thus, “violating” the child by “forced vaccination” is violating the woman. It’s hard not to look at it any other way.

Indeed, Adams seems to be doing Rand Paul even one better. Remember how Rand Paul, interrupting a female reporter’s question about his stance on school vaccine mandates, said, “The state doesn’t own the children. Parents own the children, and it is an issue of freedom.” Here, Adams seems to be saying that children aren’t even property. They’re just extension of the woman’s body.

Either that, or Adams thinks his audience is too stupid not to discern the difference between forcing an adult woman to be vaccinated (which is not what is being considered, given that every adult has the right to refuse any medical intervention and no one—I mean, no one—is questioning that) and requiring a child to be vaccinated before she can attend school. It could easily be either—or both.

Adams tries to make hay out of claiming that “injection without consent is a violation of the American Medical Association’s code of ethics:

A mandatory vaccination policy — forced vaccination of unwilling recipients — is, by definition, a medical intervention carried out without the consent of the patient or the patient’s parents. This directly violates the very clear language in the Informed Consent section of the AMA Code of Medical Ethics which states:

The patient should make his or her own determination about treatment… Informed consent is a basic policy in both ethics and law that physicians must honor, unless the patient is unconscious or otherwise incapable of consenting and harm from failure to treat is imminent.

The AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics statement is very clear: “physicians must honor” the policy of informed consent. In fact, the AMA describes this as “a basic policy in both ethics and law” and only makes exception if the patient “is unconscious” or if harm from failure to treat “is imminent.”

Except that, again, this is not “forced” vaccination. Parents can still refuse to vaccinate their children. However, if they do so, then they must realize that there will be consequences flowing from that decision. Children attending school have a right to a safe school environment, and unvaccinated children endanger that environment by making outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease more likely. Questions like this always boil down to a question of balancing individual rights versus the good of society. Also in the mix is the right of the child to proper medical care, particularly preventative care like vaccines, a right that people like Rand Paul and Mike Adams dismiss completely. To them, the child is nothing more than a possession or extension of the parents.

In any case, as Dorit Reiss explains, the doctrine of informed consent does not trump public health mandates and potential tort liability:

Does the Doctrine of Informed Consent Trump Public Health Mandates and Potential Tort Liability?

To repeat, the short answer is no. First, public health regulation always imposes some burden on the exercise of autonomy. Second, one may have both the private right to informed consent before vaccination and the public health obligation to be vaccinated. And the existence of the doctrine of informed consent does not mean there will be no other consequences to the informed decision that one makes.


Since the famous case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, states have had wide powers to regulate for the public health – and, more particularly, impose immunization requirements – even at some cost to individual rights. Note that even Jacobson acknowledged that individual rights are not absolute. Laws passed by the states in this context must meet constitutional standards. For example, most scholars see Jacobson as constitutionally requiring that a state allow a medical exemption to immunization requirements.

But as long as they meet constitutional requirements, states may legislate or regulate to protect the public health. The requirements they put in place are not inconsistent with and do not violate informed consent. For example, quarantine laws are extremely coercive, imposing very strong limits on private autonomy – but they are constitutional, and no, they do not violate informed consent (pdf), either. Nor do school immunization requirements – even those without non-medical exemptions.

In other words, Adams’ argument, as you might imagine, is a smokescreen without any basis in law or a compelling basis in ethics. Not that this stops Adams from predicting a “medical civil war” in which parents will demand that doctors be arrested for felony assault. Now, I’m not a lawyer, nor do I even play one in the blogosphere, but even I recognize Adams’ legal reasoning as being—shall we say?—fantasy-based. He uses as part of his basis a law in Ohio that allows charging an HIV-positive person with “felonious assault” for having sex with someone without informing him or her of that positive HIV status, which makes me wonder why the same law doesn’t include people with hepatitis B or C, both of which are also potentially deadly diseases and far more likely to be transmitted in a single act of sexual intercourse than HIV. Adams also cites federal law:

According to federal law enforcement, a needle is categorized as a “weapon” in the context of a physical assault. For example, if you were to acquire the blood of an HIV-positive person, fill a syringe with it, then assault someone with that needle, you would not only be charged with a felony assault, but an assault with a deadly weapon (the needle).

Under Ohio law, for example, it is explained as: “…causing or attempting to cause serious harm with a deadly weapon or a firearm — referred to in the Ohio statutes as a ‘dangerous ordnance.'”

When administered without consent, a vaccine injection is a physical violation of a human body. The substance contained in the vaccine is provably harmful and, in some cases, even deadly. Under Ohio sentencing guidelines, an individual forcing a vaccination upon someone without their consent would be committing a “felonious assault with dangerous ordnance.”

Excuse me. I can’t go on; I need a break. I’m laughing too hard as I read the above passage again.

OK, I’m fine again.

Talk about some mental contortions! See Mikey shamelessly mix federal and state law (of a single state, yet) to come up with a new legal “theory” that lets him label vaccination as a “felonious assault with dangerous ordnance”! The rest of what flows from Adams’ assumptions is simply too dumb to be real, except that I know it is real, because Mike Adams is capable of such depths. Read his rationale for how doctors committing “vaccine violence” against children would earn 41 months in federal prison (or more). But be prepared. Steel yourself. If you have any critical thinking skills, knowledge of vaccines, and even a rudimentary knowledge of the law on par with what many educated people do, you will have a headache from tightly clenched teeth, which will lose some enamel from grinding. It all depends upon Adams’ considering needles on syringes containing vaccines as needles “containing a potentially dangerous substance” and such needles are considered a “dangerous weapon” by all law enforcement organizations. Based on this speculation, Adams cranks the crazy up to 11 and writes:

Under both federal and state law, parents who believe their children face the risk of imminent harm from a violent attack upon their bodies have every right to call 911 and request armed police officers come to their defense to stop the assault and arrest those attempting to commit those acts of violence.

I am now publicly predicting that, should SB 277 be signed into law, we will see a wave of California parents calling 911 to report their doctors while demanding the government press felony assault charges against medical personnel engaged in vaccine violence.

The sad thing is, I have no doubt that, should SB 277 pass (something that is still going to require a battle), there will be an antivaccinationist or two (or maybe even three) who will try what Adams suggests. My counter-prediction is that any police called for such a purpose will not take it seriously, to put it mildly. I can picture the 911 operator silently laughing and pointing at her headset, as if to say, “Get a load of this loon!” Even Adams seems to recognize that, predicting that the police won’t arrest the doctor or nurse giving the vaccine, but still asserts that “parents will retain the right of CIVIL prosecution of those doctors for violating their civil rights.” Yes, I’d love to see someone try that argument in front of a judge. The entertainment value would be enormous.

Meanwhile, the “not anti-vaccine” minion at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism, Ken Heckenlively, wonders when they’ll “start shooting antivaxxers.”

Coming back to the frequent clutching of pearls exhibited by antivaccinationists in response to being called “antivaccine,” it’s hard to take them seriously when, to them, seemingly vaccination is the Holocaust. It’s the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s Auschwitz (complete with Dr. Josef Mengele’s horrific experiments), before which antivaccinationists view themselves as much victims as Jews in Germany during the Nazi regime. It’s Stalin. It’s the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. It’s a tsunami washing away everything before it.

And it’s a “violation” (i.e., rape) too.

And now it’s felonious assault, violence, an attack worthy of calling the police over. Adams might be what I like to colloquially call batshit crazy, but his rhetoric is useful because it tends to be the same as that of other antivaccinationists, just with the conspiracy mongering an crazy turned up to 11. If you look at others, you’ll find echoes of the same sort of rhetoric. Rare is the case when I see anyone on the “antivaccine” side publicly call out rhetoric like this, even when someone like Mike Adams likens vaccines to the Holocaust, sexual assault, human trafficking, or felonious assault. It is worth repeating that the reason, I suspect, is because most antivaccinationists are at least sympathetic to such analogies but don’t use them publicly because they know how inflammatory and despicably ridiculous those not steeped in the false victimhood of the antivaccine cult find them. Perhaps next time I will provide more examples, this time from antivaccine physicians, some of whom we’ve met before. After all, even a seemingly “mainstream” (in the antivaccine movement) group like the Autism Media Channel refers to “vaccine violence.”