Episode 187: Fight Over Religious Exemptions For Vaccines; Sex Ed In New Hampshire

Activists in Maine and Connecticut are fighting against mandatory vaccine rules for students in public schools. This week on NEXT, we look at the fate of religious exemptions for vaccines. And the only requirement for sex education in New Hampshire is that teens learn about HIV and sexually transmitted infections. We hear how some teens are having deeper conversations around inclusivity, consent and abstinence.

The Fight Against Mandatory Vaccine Rules And Religious Exemptions

A crowd gathers at the Capitol in Hartford, Conn. ahead of a public hearing on childhood vaccination regulations. (Nicole Leonard / Connecticut Public Radio)

The controversial debate over vaccination exemptions is ramping up in Maine and Connecticut. A bill in the Connecticut legislature would ban vaccine exemptions for religious reasons, requiring all public school children to be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. The bill advanced through committee this week and heads to the state’s General Assembly for debate. A vocal group of parents has opposed the bill, arguing that vaccines are unsafe for their children and that eliminating the religious exemption would amount to government overreach. That group’s positions are countered by top Connecticut officials, medical professionals and major health organizations around the world that support mandatory vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 95 percent of students are vaccinated for infectious diseases to create herd immunity and protect individuals who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons.

In Maine, vaccination exemptions for non-medical reasons are especially high – more than double the national average. So last year, the state passed a law eliminating religious and philosophical exemptions, similar to the bill being considered in Connecticut. But now there’s a voter referendum to repeal the law and reinstate those exemptions. It’s on the Super Tuesday ballot on March 3.

Sex Education In New Hampshire

(Jimmy Gutierrez / New Hampshire Public Radio)

The only requirement for sex education in New Hampshire is that students learn about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Districts can choose to provide comprehensive sex ed if they have the will – and the funding. Some private schools and home-schoolers elect abstinence-only education. In a two-part series, New Hampshire Public Radio’s podcast The Second Greatest Show On Earth examines how sex education in some schools goes beyond the basic requirements and tackles issues that include consent and LGBTQ-inclusivity.

Vermont Has Never Sent A Woman To Congress

Former Gov. Madeleine Kunin, the only woman to hold that office in Vermont, says she hopes to see the day when her state elects women to higher office, such as the U.S. Congress. (Elodie Reed / VPR)

Vermont has never elected a woman to the U.S. House or Senate. Vermont Public Radio polled Vermonters to see if they thought that was a problem: 46 percent said it was not. In the most recent episode of the podcast Brave Little State, reporter Emily Corwin looks into why the state has failed to send a woman to Washington. One reason: There are only three elected seats and the male politicians have held those seats for years, even decades. 

Also on this week’s show:

About NEXT:

NEXT is produced at Connecticut Public Radio
Host/Producer: Morgan Springer
Executive Editor: Vanessa de la Torre

Senior Director: Catie Talarski
Contributors to this episode: Nicole Leonard, Patty Wight, Angus Chen, Jimmy Gutierrez, Sara Willa Ernst, Eve Zuckoff, Emily Corwin, Angela Evancie and Susan Sharon.
Music: Todd Merrell, “New England” by Goodnight Blue Moon, “Free” by Francesca Blanchard, “Say Hey” by West End Blend, “Chasm” and “Wreck of the Hesperus” by Muddy Ruckus.

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