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Bill to prohibit COVID-19 vaccine mandates at Ohio’s colleges and universities introduced

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Ohio House Health Chairman Scott Lipps. Source: Ohio General Assembly.

A bill that would specifically ban mandates for COVID-19 vaccines at colleges and universities in Ohio was introduced Tuesday in a House committee.

House Bill 747’s messaging, authored by Republican state Rep. Scott Lipps, promotes bodily autonomy when it comes to refusing vaccinations, even in medical school programs.

“By requiring vaccines and discriminating against individuals who choose not to receive one, we are not only making very intimate health decisions for our students, but we are showing them that their education, choice, and autonomy are less meaningful and not of their own control,” Lipps told the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee.

The sponsor of the bill told the committee it was sparked by a constituent’s story of having graduation withheld from a private university in Southwestern Ohio which Lipps did not name. The student was denied access to a clinical required for graduation because she had not received the COVID-19 vaccination.

The bill was written to be intentionally “narrow,” after Lipps said the House Health Committee “suffered through hundreds of hours of testimony and thousands of witness statements regarding vaccines and vaccine technology or mandates.”

Lipps said there are “select universities” who still have a vaccine mandate in place, but when asked how many he found as he created the bill, he said there was no survey of individual universities to verify mandate status.

“Once we heard from our constituent family and then contacted the university in Southwestern Ohio, that was sufficient for us to move forward and try to draw light to this,” Lipps said.

The legislator, who chairs the House Health Committee, is also the author of legislation attempting to ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates in elementary and high schools, though no mandates exist in those areas.

He is known for speaking out against mandates for the COVID-19 vaccine, all the way back to 2020, when he asked for help to “stop this vaccine sh*t that’s coming” as anti-vaccine bills were set to hit the General Assembly.

In Tuesday’s hearing on his higher education bill, Lipps said the bigger bills to ban vaccine mandates made him realize “the broader the bill, the more difficult the bill.”

“We’re looking for baby steps for successes on mandates,” he said.

Defending HB 747, Lipps questioned the role the government should have “in deciding what a person is able to do with only their own body,” which evoked questions about the reach of such statements.

“I am looking forward to working with you and many others like you across the aisle on making sure that as we move forward, autonomy of choice and decisions between you and your doctor are left up to you and not the state of Ohio,” said state Rep. Joe Miller, D-Lorain.

The GOP has been called hypocritical on issues of bodily autonomy, with many members of the party supporting potential legislation to prevent vaccine mandates during a global pandemic, but pushing forward with proposed legislation to ban the right to abortion and criminalize doctors who work with patients on abortion-related health care procedures.

A GOP-supported law that bans abortion past six weeks of pregnancy was passed and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine, but is now frozen while it’s tied up in court yet again.

Another Republican bill that is set to reappear in the new General Assembly prohibits gender-affirming care for transgender minors, despite hours of testimony from medical professionals and parents opposing it.


This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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