ANNAPOLIS, Md. (Legal Newsline) – A Maryland appeals court has ruled that the Baltimore City Department of Social Services did not err when it requested vaccines for a child in its care despite the mother’s religious beliefs.
The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland said Aug. 30 that a lower court didn’t err when it gave the department the green-light to OK vaccinations for the child.
"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 mother’s belief that vaccination contravenes her faith," Judge Kevin F. Arthur wrote.
The child, identified as K.Y-B., was placed with the Baltimore City Department of Social Services in January two days after his birth and remains in shelter care. The child's mother appealed the shelter care order on the grounds a court erred in granting the department shelter care and erred by granting the defendant's request to consent for immunizations despite her religious objections.
Arthur pointed out that a person or a court who is taking care of the child is allowed to consent to an immunization if the biological parents are unavailable.
“It is beyond dispute that mother does not satisfy the statutory definition of a parent who ‘is not reasonably available,’” Arthur wrote. “Her location is not unknown, rather, she is actively litigating this case. She has not failed to communicate with a person acting in her stead; rather, she has made her opposition to immunization well known.”
Arthur noted that in a case where a religious view can cause serious danger to a child, a court may step in and prevent the parent from enforcing their views.
"In deciding whether a child should be placed in shelter care, therefore, it is entirely appropriate for a juvenile court to evaluate whether a parent’s religious beliefs pose a serious danger to the child’s life or health or impair or endanger the child’s welfare," Arthur wrote.
"The court did not err in evaluating those issues in this case and in concluding that the mother’s religious beliefs must yield to the child’s health and welfare."