Anti-vaccination advocates rallied in Albany on Tuesday, calling on lawmakers for more support.
Those at the protest at the Capitol say potential legislation threatens their First Amendment right to decide what goes into their bodies and those of their children. Advocates also say their religious rights are under attack.
"It's all about the choice," said Derrek Palmisano, of Buffalo.
He and his wife Lindsay came from Buffalo for the rally.
"And some [vaccines] I think there's more risks than others so when there's risk, there has to be choice," said Linsday Palmisano.
The pair brought along their two kids, ages one and five, who are unvaccinated. The Palmisanos say they aren't worried.
"They are healthy, they've never had an antibiotic, they've never had any neurological problems, they don't have any delays," said Lindsay Palmisano. "They're healthy kids and we feel like we're keeping their immune systems intact."
Meghan Fox of Canandaigua came for two reasons: religious and medical.
"I'm against any repeal of any religious freedom in New York regardless of why, it's a First Amendment right," Fox said.
The other critical issue for Fox: People are being forced to share medical information typically protected by HIPAA laws.
"Medical histories are private and you medical decisions are private," Fox said. "They should stay between you and your doctor."
Mark Ustin, a health and human services policy expert, says three states have already eliminated exemptions entirely. Sixteen states allow both religious and philosophical objections. New York only allows a religious exemption and Ustin says eliminating the religious exemption is a delicate issue on both sides.
"The exemption is grounded in many ways — what our bedrock American principles of freedom of religion," Ustin said. "But on the other hand, as we've seen recently, public health is a legitimate goal of the state and I think it's very easy for people who have enjoyed the protection of mandatory vaccination for a long time to forget what some of these diseases are like."
Ustin says school officials are tasked with deciding who gets a religious exemption. The criteria: It has to be "A sincerely held and genuine belief," which is then tested by the school — but the testing varies.
"In many cases that exemption is denied but one of the issues we have is because it's school officials, it's not really uniformly applied," Ustin said.
Ustin says there are a lot of complex issues legislators must untangle, whether the bills pass or not, including how misinformation about vaccines is spread, particularly its dissemination across social media.
This comes as the Centers for Disease Control say more than 800 cases of measles have been reported so far this year — the most since 1994. The majority of the cases have been in New York.