Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina renewed the debate over childhood vaccinations Thursday in Iowa when she said that parents shouldn’t be forced to vaccinate their kids against diseases like measles.
Whether or not vaccinations should be mandatory for children became one of the first litmus tests for 2016 presidential hopefuls after one of the biggest measles outbreaks in recent years spread during the winter from California’s Disneyland into 14 states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) was asked about the outbreak during an overseas trip and said he thought parents should have “some measure of choice” in vaccinating their kids; his office later tried to walk back that remark, but other prospective candidates quickly jumped in with their takes and the issue garnered headlines for weeks.
The former Hewlitt-Packard CEO’s comments came at a town hall in Alden, Iowa, in response to a question from a woman who said she was a mother of five and was opposed to immunizing her children with any vaccines that were made using cells from “aborted babies,” according to The Washington Post.
“When in doubt, it must always be the parent’s choice,” Fiorina responded, adding “We must protect religious liberty and someone’s ability to practice their religion.”
Afterward, Fiorina told reporters the trade-off is that schools are within their rights to turn away unvaccinated children, according to the Post.
Fiorina made similar comments about parental choice in a January interview with BuzzFeed News.
“I think parents have to make choices for their family and their children,” she told the news site. She added that it was “hard to make a blanket statement” about immunizations, drawing a distinction between vaccinating for measles (“makes a lot of sense”) and vaccinating for cervical cancer (“just in case she’s sexually active at 11”) to make her point.