Last year, I read that a NY lawmaker was going to propose a bill to take away the religious exemption to vaccinations, for such a bill had already passed in California. Since NY lawmakers like to follow either the Federal government or other States, I knew people had to mobilize.
Since the lawmakers were in recess and back in their home districts, I thought a very good time to contact them would be in the Fall. Thus, I was able to get two other women to come with me to the local offices of our representatives. (I live in Northern New York and because the population is smaller our lawmakers cover more territory. Our Assemblymember covers St. Lawrence County and Jefferson County, while our NY State Senator covers St. Lawrence County, Jefferson County and Oswego County. They both have offices in Dulles State Office Building in Watertown, but also have local offices in each County.)
I was able to get two other women to come with me in November to our State Senator's local office in Ogdensburg. We met with her aide and gave him some information and urged him to pass on to her our opposition to the proposed bill. He then assured us that she was in favor of religious rights and would vote against the proposed bill. We did the same with the aide of our Assemblywoman, although her office is located in Canton. That aide let us know that the Assemblywoman also was in favor of religious rights. The aide also told us that she, personally, was in favor of vaccinations.
Visiting the local offices of our representatives was fairly convenient for none of us had to travel very far and thus, it did not take up a lot of our day. The visits typically lasted about one- half hour and gave us each the opportunity to voice our position and ask questions, as well as to have time for the aides to ask us questions. The aides also commented that it was a good time for they were not in the midst of the busy Legislative Session and they appreciated the timing of our visit.
As 2016 came and the Legislative Session started, I thought it would be good to try and get someone from the other Counties to do the same. I had a contact in Jefferson County and she was willing to see the lawmakers in their Watertown offices, as long as I came along and did most of the talking for she felt she couldn't do the issue justice. However, she had lost touch with anyone she previously knew who was interested in the issue. I also had another contact who never got back to me, but had stated that her daughter was interested in the issue.
In March I contacted the lawmakers' offices to set up an appointment. And the following experiences are something I never imagined or have previously experienced in any other lawmaker contact over 30 years!! The Assemblywoman's staff right away gave me an appointment day and time. They asked who else would be coming and I gave the name of the other woman (this is a usual procedure). I am sorry to say, however, the “scheduler” for the State Senator has put us off since April and we have yet to have had an appointment with her! To me, this is most unusual behavior for a lawmaker's office.
For the appointment with the Assemblywoman I did things differently from when I met with the aides in the local offices. By the April appointment, I had purchased copies of “Bought,” a film that covered vaccines, big pharma and our food supply. So, I brought along a copy to give to the Assemblywoman. I also brought along information regarding the HPV vaccine and info from the Cochrane Collaboration (www.cochrane.org) regarding the flu vaccine for children, healthcare workers and those over age 65. (The Cochrane Collaboration is an independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, etc. who work to help us make informed choices using best evidence from research. They are supported, in part, by the World Health Organization, Wikipedia, Wiley Medical Publishing and others). I also brought a copy of my 2000 brochure, “13 Reasons Not to Vaccinate.”
We had been told in advance that the Assemblywoman had another appointment and that basically we had 30 minutes with her. No problem, except that she spent most of the time talking social stuff with us. Aware of the time constraint, I kept coming back to the issue and also gave her the above-mentioned information, which she glanced at while I was talking. She stated that a group of young mothers had seen her a few weeks earlier on the issue. She also stated that they had wanted her to do something in writing, but she refused. The Assemblywoman stated that she gave her word and that is enough. (Again, something unusual for lawmakers for they usually tout how many letters, etc. they respond to from constituents.)
However, in order to try and get some response about vaccination from her, about a month later, I wrote the Assemblywoman and asked what she thought of the information and documentary that we left with her. Until now, no response.
I wanted to share this experience with you because I hope it encourages you to call or visit your lawmakers and, hopefully, bring even one other person with you, for numbers count. Of course, the best way to judge how effective we are is to then see how our lawmakers vote when the issues come up.
P.S. If you know of anyone who lives in my Legislative Districts, please have them contact me for I still plan on getting to see our State Representative and if I can bring more people, so much the better.