AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A group of Texas physicians are ramping up their calls for Gov. Greg Abbott to rescind his executive order banning vaccine requirements, saying the government needs to stay out of health care.
Doctors part of the Committee to Protect Health Care, a national advocacy organization, said in a press conference Friday the executive order prevents health care facilities from making decisions that protect their patients and communities.
Dr. Joanna Schwartz, a pediatric emergency specialist in Austin, said the order goes against fundamental business principles in the state.
“Texas is all about business and individual businesses should be able to set policies for their employees,” she said. “People don’t always make the best decision. A lot of people are fueled by misinformation that’s available on the internet on social media. And it should be up to an individual institution to decide the policies for their employees, and hospitals or other health care facilities should absolutely have the right to require vaccinations.”
The conversation about vaccination requirements for health care workers got national attention when the Houston Methodist Hospital system suspended 178 employees without pay over their refusal to get vaccinated. In June a federal judge threw out a lawsuit by the employees, saying in part vaccinations as a condition of employment is not coercion.
Republican lawmakers in Texas disagree with that notion, saying it is discriminatory practice for employers to terminate staff over refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Senate Bill 51 would codify Abbott’s July executive order, which banned government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccines, as well as public or private entities receiving state funding. It also codifies an additional order Abbott issued in August to add no localities or school districts can require their employees to get the vaccine.
The language of the bill does not include Abbott’s latest executive order, which outright bans all entities in Texas from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations or proof thereof.
However, the legislation does provide exemptions that employers must allow. Those include objections to getting the vaccine “based on a medical condition or reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs.”
Eric McDaniel, an associate professor of politics at the University of Texas, said there’s good reason why lawmakers may not try to codify Abbott’s latest executive order.
“Texas is actively trying to recruit businesses from other states, and it’s been very successful in doing so. But if you do something like this, it may make businesses a little bit wary of coming to Texas, because it says it’s saying if we’re going to try to regulate this aspect of your business, who’s to say we won’t try to regulate other aspects,” McDaniel said.
He said aside from potentially being seen as bad for business, there is legal precedent which could potentially strike down such a law.
“When it comes to government mandates of something such as the vaccination… there’s a court case from over 110 years ago, when the Supreme Court said under certain conditions, people can’t be mandated to be vaccinated,” McDaniel said.
As for whether lawmakers will get these bills across the finish line when the special session ends next Tuesday, McDaniel guesses it will be difficult to legislate complicated policy in a short amount of time.