A measure that would protect individuals from coerced COVID-19 vaccination has passed the Texas Senate.
Senate Bill 177 by State Sen. Mayes Middleton (R–Galveston) would require a person or entity to obtain an individual’s “informed consent” before administering a vaccination for COVID-19. It would also prohibit any action intended to “compel or coerce” an individual into giving such consent, as well as prohibit taking an “adverse action” against someone for refusing to receive a vaccination for COVID-19.
The legislation authorizes the attorney general to issue an injunction to protect an individual’s right of informed consent if it is being threatened, and it requires anyone found guilty of violating this right to pay at least $5,000 in restitution.
The bill passed Monday by a vote of 20-11, with Democrat César Blanco (El Paso) breaking from his caucus to join every Republican in supporting the measure. It is identical to House Bill 81 by State Rep. Brian Harrison (R–Midlothian), which received the approval of the House Public Health Committee the same day.
When he introduced the measure, Middleton said, “This bill ensures medical freedom,” arguing that “no Texan should have to choose between their sincerely held beliefs on the COVID vaccine and their right to make a living and feed their family.”
He added that the COVID-19 vaccine “does not make epidemiological or medical sense.”
State Sen. José Menéndez (D–San Antonio), however, said he couldn’t recall any instances of people being forced to take the vaccine, and he articulated the belief that one’s individual liberties are restricted by those of others.
“I think our personal freedom ends where it might impact someone else’s freedoms. And so, I think if I choose not to take a vaccine, I could be choosing to infect other people by getting myself sick,” Menéndez said.
In response, Middleton recounted hearing from “a lot” of constituents who reported feeling coerced into receiving the COVID vaccine. He also pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private companies and explained his bill would codify the protections for individuals in Abbott’s executive order, which “will allow him to eventually terminate [it].”
State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) argued that “the proper role of government is to protect and defend our God-granted freedom,” noting that the Constitution does not contain any exceptions to that responsibility. He compared the mandatory vaccination orders from businesses and governments over the last few years to the forcible medical experimentation on Jews in Nazi Germany, and he remarked that those who participated in these crimes were executed.
“You have individual rights. I have those, and my rights end where yours begin, and yours end where mine begin,” said Hall. “To coerce someone into accepting [a vaccine] is a blatant violation of individual rights.”
Before the vote on the bill, Hall said he thought “it’s one of the most important bills we will pass this session to reaffirm our individual rights and the right to not be coerced.”
Michelle Evans, the legislative director of Texans for Vaccine Choice, shared the following statement with Texas Scorecard:
TFVC is excited to see Texans’ right to informed consent recognized and strengthened in the passage of SB 177: The Texas COVID Vaccine Freedom Act. Once signed into law, all citizens in our great state will no longer be at risk of being coerced into getting a COVID jab in order to participate in society.
The Senate must approve the legislation once more before sending it to the House.