Vaccine exception bill stalls in state Senate as protesters descend on State House

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A measure to eliminate religious exemptions for vaccines for schoolchildren has stalled in the New Jersey Senate as a large group of protesters demonstrated in front of the State House.

The Democrat-led Assembly passed the bill 45-25, with six abstentions. But the Senate did not go ahead with a vote and went into recess amid loud chants from opponents who shouted, “We do not consent,” and “In God we trust.”

Opponents of the bill say that it would impede on their religious and medical freedoms to choose not to vaccinate their children. They say that this bill would mean the government overstepping its bounds. They say that they are prepared to pull their kids out of school if they are forced to get the vaccines.

"I'm very adamant about the fact they shouldn't have the choice in telling us what we should do with our bodies,” says Karen Widland of Brick Township. “Whether it's vaccines or a medical procedure or anything.”

But supporters of the bill say that the vaccinations are essential to protect the health of the public.

“Because of junk science propagated across the internet and, I would say, paranoia, we are seeing an increasing number of cases of measles, not only here in our own country but across the world,” says Democratic Assemblyman Herb Conaway.

There have been 19 confirmed measles cases this year in New Jersey and nearly 1,300 nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that it is the worst year for measles in the U.S. since it was declared eliminated 15 years ago.

Senate President Steve Sweeney says that lawmakers will consider the bill again before the session ends next month.

If the bill is eventually passed, it would make New Jersey a handful of states, including New York and California, in doing away with the religious exemption.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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