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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

OH-05 House Race: GOP Begins Arguing Over 2004 Chickenpox Vaccine Vote

BOWLING GREEN (TDB) -- Adding chickenpox to the list of required immunizations for Ohio schoolchildren was opposed by some right-to-lifers when the issue came up three years ago in the Ohio General Assembly. Now the debate has been resurrected, where it has spilled over into the Oh-05 Republican congressional primary to replace the late Paul Gillmor.

Then State Rep. Steve Buehrer voted against the chicken pox vaccinations with 27 others, a group that included the current House Speaker, John Husted, and State Rep. Tom Brinkman, the Cincinnati Republican who has sponsored legislation to outlaw abortion in Ohio. Buehrer's opponent in the OH-o5 GOP primary, Bob Latta, voted for the chicken pox vaccines.

Don't even think for a minute this is trivial. It is huge to the pro-life movement. None other than Cardinal Ratzinger -- the current Pope Benedict -- delved into the moral questions about fetal tissue in vaccine cells lines in 2005. The Vatican issued this lengthy report which said there was a duty among Catholics to try to avoid vaccines that were created in violation of church teachings. The Vatican report explained in part:

"As regards the preparation, distribution and marketing of vaccines produced as a result of the use of biological material whose origin is connected with cells coming for foetuses voluntarily abortted, such a process is stated, as a matter of principle, morally illicit, because it could contribute in encouraging the performance of other volultary abortions, with the purpose of the production of such vaccines. Nevertheless, it should be recognized that, within the chain of production-distribution-marketing, the various cooperating agents can have differing moral responsibilities."

The statement, and the debate starting in OH-05, carries echoes of the arguments over stem cell research, and the pro-life movement's opposition to using tissue from aborted human life to explore and develop promising biomedical technologies for Parkinson's and other diseases.

A blogger called Ohio Farmer brought the vaccine issue back to life today with a post that wondered whose pro-life commitment was stronger: Buehrer or Latta. The anonymous blogger favored Buehrer, citing as one reason the chicken pox vaccine:

"On a third vote that both Latta and Buehrer had a chance to take a stand on was the issue of mandatory chickenpox vaccinations. What do chickenpox vaccinations have to do with pro-life issues? Well, to date every chickenpox vaccination requires aborted fetal tissues in its production. When the bill came up for a vote in the House, Latta voted for the bill. When the bill got to the Senate, Steve Buehrer voted against it. This was not a high-profile bill that got a lot of limelight.

"Frankly, to be pro-life is relatively easy when the vote is about cutting funding for abortion. The true test of being pro-life is how you vote on obscure measures that deal with non-high profile issues like aborted fetal tissue used in production of vaccines."

The Daily Bellwether's research shows that Substitute House Bill No. 463 dealt with mandatory chicken pox immunizations. The House Journal for May 26, 2004 (pdf) shows the official vote, which is reported on page 117. There were 70 yeas, including Latta. Buehrer is listed among the 28 nays, including Brinkman, Husted, Jim Trakas, Tim Grendell and Jean Schmidt, who now represents OH-02 in the U.S. House and is a longtime supporter of the pro-life movement.

Matt Naugle of Right Angle Blog also spotted Ohio Farmer's discussion of chicken pox as a right-to-life issue. Matt says he is going to have more on the topic later today, and promises some inside dish on what went down in the Ohio House.


  1. Many strong Pro-Life Republican legislators voted with Latta on this bill in 2004. Strange that this vote may become one of the most important issues raised in the GOP primary.

  2. HI Anon --

    Sorry I missed your comment. Deep apologies. I think that what is happening is that two conservative candidates are maneuvering -- and one of them, Steve Buehrer, is trying to show that he is more conservative than Bob Latta. In a special you have to push voters to the polls, or find voters you can push to the polls, because the time allotted for campaigning is so darn short. Buehrer, or his supporters, are looking for something that catches -- taxes, abortion, something, that gives him an edge. I don't know if the Latta name is as big as it once was in NW Ohio -- maybe he gets an advantage on name recognition. I do think this is going to be a really fascinating contest. How many days are left? 38, 39?