HARTFORD — A state legislator says she has become the target of threatening online posts. She says she’s had enough.
Rep. Liz Linehan is the chair of the Children's Committee. She's passionate about vaccines. She is shepherding a bill that would inform nurses of their right to refuse to sign a religious exemption form for parents who don't want to vaccinate their kids. Some advocates say it's a slippery slope to eliminating the religious exemption altogether. It’s a debate that’s taken an ugly and personal turn.
“We can't let bully’s win,” said Linehan. “The anti-vaxers will stop at nothing. There's no shame.”
Rep. Linehan is the target of personal attacks related to her stance on vaccines. Now she says her family is under threat. An anonymous tweet called her children the spawn of satin. Linehan doesn't know what person or group sent the tweet, but has her suspicions.
“We vehemently deny any knowledge of representation of that tweet and we strongly condemn any behavior that threatens children,” said LeeAnn Ducat. Ducat heads Informed Choice CT, a group at the center of the fight to maintain the religious exemption for parents who don’t want to vaccinate. “I don't want the tenor of the conversation to be aggressive,” said Ducat. But in video of a public hearing last month, Ducat can be heard using what some may consider inflammatory language. “Forced vaccination is equivalent to medical rape,” she said.
Linehan has taken to social media to defend herself from accusations of a conflict of interest. Her husband works at a pharmaceutical company. “This pharmaceutical company does not create vaccines for humans, at all.” Ducat responded, “Promulgating legislation that would directly benefit an industry who does work on vaccines whether her husband is directly responsible for that or not is a little questionable.”
Some in anti-vaccine movement have started wearing gold stars, equating their alleged religious persecution to that of Jews in Nazi Germany. “That is absolutely disgusting,” said Linehan.
Ducat said, “I do feel that the holocaust is a sacred thing.”
The Capitol Police are investigating the tweet. We asked Rep. Linehan if she wants an apology. “No. I want it to stop.”
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Matt Ritter has said he wants to vote on whether to eliminate the religious exemption altogether within the next year. 1,250 people claim it in Connecticut. The medical exemption would remain in place.