November 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A social service agency in Baltimore did not violate the law when it vaccinated a newborn child despite the mother’s religious objections, a Maryland court has ruled.

The case involves an anonymous woman who, along with her husband, had been accused of abusing, neglecting and failing to properly care for their other children. When the baby, referred to as K.Y-B in court papers, was born, he was immediately taken into state custody.

When officials at the Baltimore City Department of Social Services made plans to vaccinate the child, the mother objected on religious grounds. A lower court approved the vaccinations, and the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland has agreed.

“In light of the serious risks of harm to infants from infectious diseases, and the effectiveness of the preventive immunizations that authorities on pediatric disease say should be administered beginning within hours of birth, the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the state’s compelling interest in protecting the health of the child outweighs [the] mother’s belief that vaccination contravenes her faith,” Judge Kevin F. Arthur wrote.

He added, “Here, the juvenile court determined that the significant risks to the Child and the public, if he does not receive the recommended childhood immunizations, outweigh Mother’s right to religious freedom.” (In Re: K.Y-B)