AUSTIN, Texas - A group called Texans for Vaccine Choice is speaking out against the pro-vaccine legislation up for debate this session.
"The one fundamental belief we all share is that parents are best suited to make medical decisions for their children," said Jackie Schlegel, the founder of Texans for Vaccine Choice.
The group formed last legislative session after Representative Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, filed a bill that would do away with religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions for public school children. The bill died before ever reaching the floor.
"We got significant pushback from a very small but vociferous group of mothers," Villalba said.
Now the group has grown, mobilizing across Texas and boasting a Facebook page with more than 11,000 likes.
"(We have) Republicans, Democrats, nurses, doctors, teachers," Schlegel said. "We don't dispute the science. We don't debate the science. We're simply here just to fight for parents and individuals and the right to choose."
Though lawmakers haven't introduced legislation as sweeping as Villalba's, several pro-vaccine bills will be up for debate. One bill, filed by Representative Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, would allow children as young as 14 to receive the HPV vaccine - even without parental consent. Another bill, filed by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would create a vaccine registry in Texas.
Though the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the United States has the safest vaccine supply in history, Texans for Vaccine Choice oppose both bills on the premise that the government shouldn't be involved with vaccination decisions.
"It is very slippery-slope," Schlegel said.
Lawmakers in support of the bills say so-called anti-vaxxers are putting public health at risk.
"Merely because you think that these types of vaccinations cause injuries is insufficient to jeopardize the lives of children all across Texas," Villalba said.