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Indiana University students seek preliminary injunction to stop vaccine mandate

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 7:45 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -Happening today, eight Indiana University students are suing after the IU Board of Trustees decided to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for students, faculty and staff. That mandate was announced back on May 21st.

There were nearly three hours of arguments in court on Tuesday and here is a brief breakdown.

Ahead of the lawsuit, the attorney for the eight IU students is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the vaccine mandate before the lawsuit proceedings begin. Those students object to having a vaccine required to go to school at Indiana University. IU’s attorney’s say that students still have a choice and could choose to just go to a different school.

Attorney James Bopp says there are still a lot of unknowns about the vaccine in terms of side effects as those vaccines do not have full FDA approval, just emergency use authorization. He adds that this mandate violates the students’ 14th Amendment rights. https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/amendmentxiv

Bopp also says that Indiana University is the only state university in Indiana to mandate the vaccine.

At one point during Tuesday’s proceedings, the subject of exemptions to the vaccine were presented. Bopp and Judge Damon R. Leichty went back and forth over IU needing to require exemptions for religious reasons, bodily autonomy, and right to choose medical treatment. The judge said, with regard to bodily autonomy, there is no caselaw precedent set to establish bodily autonomy as a fundamental right, and that it is a liberty, thus may not be a reason to scrap the vaccine mandate from IU.

Here is an excerpt from IU’s COVID-19 vaccine policy, there are consequences for refusing the vaccine and going to school at IU:

If you choose not to meet the requirement

IU has outlined strong consequences for those who choose not to meet the COVID-19 vaccine requirement and do not receive an exemption. Everyone is strongly encouraged to get the vaccine as soon as possible not only for your own health and safety but for those around you as well.

For students, they will see their class registration cancelled, CrimsonCard access terminated, access to IU systems (Canvas, email, etc.) terminated, and will not be allowed to participate in any on campus activity.

Faculty and staff who choose not to meet the requirement will no longer be able to be employed by Indiana University. Working remotely and not meeting the COVID-19 vaccine requirement is not an option.

Exemption request process

Approved exemptions include:

  • Religious exemptions.
  • Medical exemptions with documentation from your provider of an allergy to the COVID-19 vaccines or their components.
  • Medical deferrals for the following circumstances with a note from your provider: Active pregnancy or active breastfeeding only if the provider is requesting an exemption. The exemption lasts only until you’re no longer actively pregnant or actively breastfeeding. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are not contraindications for vaccination. Immunocompromised individuals only with provider request for an exemption and only for those who have recent (within the past 3-6 months) hematopoietic or solid organ transplant, or on active treatment with Rituximab within the past 3-6 months. Have received COVID-specific monoclonal antibodies in the past 90 days.
  • An online program exemption for students who are in a 100% online program with no on-campus component. This must be an online program; not simply taking all online classes.

You can request an exemption using the online request form. IU’s Medical Response Team, among other designated IU leaders, will promptly review exemption requests, responding within five business days.”

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Here is a link to the full policy: https://www.iu.edu/covid/prevention/covid-19-vaccine.html

Bopp moved on to argue that reports from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, or VAERS, that allows people to report negative side effects from the vaccine shows that there are side effects out there that should be taken into consideration. https://vaers.hhs.gov/

However, Judge Leichty clarified that those reports are far from scientific, are not peer-reviewed, and are merely anecdotal.

When taking aim at IU’s Attorney’s, the judge questioned the vaccine mandate from Indiana University and added that there are no scientific studies to rule out all of the risks and concerns people have with these COVID-19 vaccines.

The University’s attorneys fell back on a Supreme Court ruling from 1905 (the case began in 1904) Jacobson V. Massachusetts that sets caselaw allowing compulsory or required vaccinations.

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/197/11/

IU’s legal team says this US District Court in Northern Indiana has no authority to reject that ruling.

I asked the IU students’ attorney about that, he thinks that ruling could be overturned.

“Giving no authority to the courts to review a public health measure imposed by the government? That’s ludicrous. Alright? So I think they would, but fortunately for me there’s also an exception, because Jacobson recognized that if Constitutional rights were violated, and we have modern recognition of Constitutional rights, including bodily integrity, since Jacobson, ok? If they’re violated then the government, in this case IU has to show that it’s a reasonable measure that legitimately advances public health,” James Bopp, attorney for the 8 IU students, says.

I asked IU’s legal team for comment but they said I would need to contact the University’s Communication Department. Judge Leichty didn’t give a date on when he will decide on that injunction but did say it would be “very, very soon” once he can review the case and the more than 100 exhibits presented.

Attorney James Bopp says this case could set precedent going for in terms of public entities and their ability to mandate the vaccine.

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