POLITICS

GOP Arizona Lawmaker Claims Vaccinations Are 'Communist'

State Rep. Kelly Townsend also misused a Benjamin Franklin quote.

As cases of measles continue to rise across the United States, public health advocates have cast a critical eye on state policies that make it easy for parents to avoid vaccinating their children. The Food and Drug Administration has even warned that it may try to act if the virus continues to spread. 

Facing that possibility, Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend (R) took to Facebook on Thursday bemoaning not the transmission of a wholly preventable illness but communism, for some reason.

“Dearest friends and people of Arizona, it seems we are prepared to give up our liberty, the very sovereignty of our body, because of measles,” wrote the five-term lawmaker. 

“I read yesterday that the idea is being floated that if not enough people get vaccinated, then we are going to force them to,” she continued. “The idea that we force someone to give up their liberty for the sake of the collective is not based on American values but rather, Communist.”

Townsend’s belief that vaccines cause harm — a claim researchers have repeatedly debunked — stems from her 22-year-old daughter’s unspecified health problems, according to The Washington Post. The lawmaker blames vaccines she gave her daughter at 10 months.

Townsend ended her statement with a couple of paragraphs on “fundamentals” before closing with a Benjamin Franklin quote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

The irony of that quote, which refers to a tax dispute, is that Franklin was a strong proponent of vaccinating children. After his son died from the disease, he even teamed up with a London physician to write an instructional guide on smallpox vaccinations.

The current measles outbreak is particularly affecting regions in New York, Washington state, Texas and Oregon where there are groups of unvaccinated people.

While all states allow vaccine exemptions for medical reasons, some also let parents skip them for religious or philosophical reasons.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb lamented such policies in February, telling Axios, “It’s an avoidable tragedy.”

“Too many states have lax laws,” he added.

Townsend’s home state scrapped a vaccine education program for parents late last year after protests from those who don’t vaccinate. 

But this week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) threatened to veto legislation currently under consideration in the state that would create a religious exemption from required vaccines. 

“I’m anti-measles,” Ducey said. 

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