From the August 2002 Idaho Observer:

Medical martial law coming to America

AAPS still opposing Model Health Powers Act

AAPS Release, 7/25/02

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is pressing its opposition to the federally sponsored Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA), which opponents charge would give authorities the right to enforce quarantines, vaccinate people, seize and destroy property without compensation, and ration medical supplies, food and fuel in a public-health emergency, USA Today reports.

The law was “developed as a model for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and provided to state legislatures last year,” according to USA Today, which reports that “fewer than a third of the states have adopted laws to give governors and state health officials powers to respond to a bioterrorism attack or other public-health emergencies.”

One reason? The act “goes far beyond bioterrorism,” Andrew Schlafly of the conservative Association of American Physicians and Surgeons told USA Today. “Unelected state officials can force treatment or vaccination of citizens against the advice of their doctors.”

Schlafly's organization is part of what USA Today called a “broad coalition of opponents,” which includes civil libertarians and conservative physicians who agree that the Act would violate individual rights and give government too much power. Their objections have caused lawmakers in a number of states to scuttle the bill.

The act “gives governors and state health officials a blank check to impose the most draconian sorts of measures,” Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union told USA Today. He said it's “designed to bring quarantine and other laws into the 21st century, but in many ways it is a throwback.”

The feds claim that laws such as the proposed act are needed because they give authorities the guidance and legal ability they need to make quick decisions in an emergency involving contagious or deadly pathogens. They say that most state health emergency laws haven't been updated since polio tore through the population a half-century ago.

Schlafly, who calls the act “Clintonesque,” reports that “Seven states have passed portions of MEHPA, while more than double that have rejected it. No state has passed all, or even nearly all, of MEHPA. So we've done well in fighting it.”

States that rejected or shelved MEHPA, Schlafly said, are Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi and Connecticut.

The states that effectively rejected MEHPA by passing an alternative were Louisiana, South Dakota, Vermont and Utah.

Schlafly said that he thinks the worst state in dealing with the act is Florida, where he is fighting to have the state rescind its adoption of MEHPA.

Here are his rankings of the seven MEHPA states, beginning with what he calls “the worst”

1. Florida - The public health department (not necessarily the elected governor) may declare a health emergency based on incidents that may result in substantial risk of harm to public health, then the health department has the power to use law enforcement to forcibly quarantine or by “any means necessary” vaccinate, without any recognized exceptions.

2. Maryland - The governor may declare a “catastrophic health emergency,” limited to an imminent threat of extensive loss of life or of serious disability caused by exposure to a deadly agent, defined as anthrax, ebola, plague, smallpox and other listed causes, or mustard or nerve gas or deadly radiation, and then act on the crisis.

3. Arizona - The governor may declare an emergency only if there is a substantial risk of a significant number of human fatalities or permanent or long-term disability, and may quarantine only if it is the least restrictive means, which expressly includes the possibility of detention in one's residence.

4. Georgia - The governor must call a special session of the legislature to approve or reject a declaration of a public health emergency, which requires a “high probability” of harm to a “large number” of people; vaccination rules must permit “consideration of the opinion of a person's personal physician as to whether the vaccination is medically appropriate or advisable for such person”; and unless there is “an epidemic or immediate threat thereof, the vaccination requirement shall not apply to any person who objects in writing thereto on grounds that such immunization conflicts with his religious beliefs.”

5. New Hampshire - The governor may declare an emergency, which the Legislature may revoke; the initial period of emergency is only 21 days, and a court order is required to quarantine.

6. Minnesota - Sunsets [lapses] in 2004; the commissioner of health must apply for a court order within 24 hours after detaining someone, and must then release the detainee if a court order is not received within 48 hours.

7. Maine - Sunsets in 2003; the health department must prove by clear and convincing evidence at a hearing, within 48 hours of detaining someone, that the “person has been exposed to or is at significant medical risk of transmitting a communicable disease that poses a serious imminent risk to public health or safety and there are no less restrictive alternatives available to protect the public health and safety”; and the court must issue a ruling within 24 hours of the hearing to either release the person or detain him for a period of no longer than 30 days.

Note: MEHPA has been presented to the governors all of the 50 states. It appears that public response is being analyzed. Amended versions are likely to be debated in committee during the 2003 legislative sessions.

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