Mandatory Vaccines: Questionable Federal Policy Informing Questionable State Laws
McCarty, Catherine M.
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CitationMandatory Vaccines: Questionable Federal Policy Informing Questionable State Laws (2002 Third Year Paper)
AbstractAmong the powers retained by the states are what have become known as the police powers. The police powers include the power of the state government to promote the public welfare by restraining and regulating private individualâ€™s rights to liberty and uses of property. Public health regulation has long been regarded as one of the stateâ€™s primary and most important police powers. The validity of public health laws and regulations at both the state and federal level depend on two constitutional questions; first, does the government entity have the constitutional power to act in the interest of the public heath, and secondly and more interestingly, does the specific manner in which the government has acted violate or exceed any constitutional principles or individual rights? Initially, the courts were highly deferential to the states with regard to their exercise of police powers, validating all rules and regulations of local health authorities where they were reasonably calculated to preserve the health of the public. On the other hand, not all courts were so deferential to the state and local health authorities, and did not allow them free reign over matters of public health. In these instances, the skepticism of the court to the public health actions that purported to protect the public arose from the notion that the action involved an arbitrary interference with private business or imposed an unusually and unnecessary restriction upon a lawful activity. Furthermore, police powers that exceeded the scope of a public health necessity were at time subject to strict judicial review. While the public health has traditionally been the exclusive province of the state government, federal involvement in public health matters has significantly increased throughout the twentieth century. This increase has been seen primarily as a result of the Courtâ€™s broadened interpretations of the Commerce Clause as well as the Taxing and Spending powers in the New Deal era. With this shift, Public Health laws were expanded to include laws and regulations passed, enforced, and adjudicated at all levels of government. However, history demonstrates a gradual centralization and consolidation of government power on the federal level as can be seen through the passing of such laws like The Virus, Serum, and Antitoxin Act, The Food and Drug Act, The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and the Public Health Service Act. Furthermore, through its ability to condition the receipt of federal funds upon the performance of federal guidelines, standards or requirements, Congress has been able to increase the influence of the federal government over the states.
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