‘Justina’s Law’ Introduced in Wake of Pelletier Nightmare

Matt Barber

6/30/2014 12:01:00 AM - Matt Barber

It’s hard to determine where the tragedy begins and the travesty ends. It’s a story that has gripped and enraged a nation. It’s a sordid tale of governmental tyranny, child imprisonment and endangerment, harmful and unethical medical experimentation, as well as a number of gross conflicts of interest.

This is the story of a child, Justina Pelletier, who faced 16 long months of child abuse and incarceration at the hands of both Massachusetts government officials and callous medical personnel at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Thankfully, due to the actions of Liberty Counsel, a Christian civil rights law firm, powerful media voices like Glenn Beck and tens of thousands of outraged and outspoken Americans, 16-year-old Justina is now home.

But the saga is not over. This sort of travesty is happening all over the country at the hands of underqualified, overzealous government officials. And it’s all being done in the name of “child and family” welfare.

Now Congress is getting involved.

Justina Pelletier’s story is that of a 15-year-old ice-skating competitor who was taken from her parents by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), locked up for 16 months and is now confined to a wheelchair because of maltreatment for a metabolic disorder.

Here is an abbreviated timeline of events (For greater detail see this report):

Now Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and other lawmakers are getting involved. Yesterday they introduced a bill in the House of Representatives, “Justina’s Law.” It’s a bipartisan bill intended to insulate children and families from this kind of outrageous treatment.

While bringing this kind of government and medical abuse to a standstill may be difficult, Justina’s Law aims to at least offer some level of child protection.

At issue is a portion of BCH’s policy that states, “Children who are Wards of the State may be included in research that presents greater than minimal risk with no prospect of direct benefit.” On page two of the policy, BCH defines “ward” to include “foster children, or any child under the control of DSS in the state of Massachusetts.”

It works like this: Boston Children’s Hospital needs guinea pigs and the Massachusetts DCF provides them.

Rep. Bachmann was joined by Reps. Karen Bass, D-Calif., Tom Marino, R-Pa., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash., the co-chairs of the Foster Youth Caucus, to introduce this bipartisan legislation that will prohibit federal funding for medical experimentation on any ward of the State.

Mark Trammell is with Liberty Counsel Action (LCA). He and LCA led the charge to get the legislation introduced, and will likewise lead the charge to get it passed.

“The purpose of this bill is to protect children, plain and simple,” said Trammell. “This is not about partisan politics, it’s about advocating for the health and safety of children. It is irresponsible and inexcusable to subject foster children, or any child who is a ward of the state, to medical research that presents a greater than minimal risk of harm to the child with no prospect of direct benefit. These are children, created in the image of God; they deserve to be treated that way, not like human lab rats.

“We are thrilled to see bipartisan support for this bill,” Trammell added. “Liberty Counsel Action is proud to support Justina’s Law and commends Rep. Bachmann, Rep. Bass, Rep. McDermott, and Rep. Marino for their compassion and collective leadership in protecting the rights of foster children – in protecting all children.”

In a statement late Friday, Rep. Bachmann observed, “Whether it is one child or thousands, it is our duty to guarantee that children are kept safe from harm while in the custody of their respective states. Not all these children have families like the Pelletiers willing or able to advocate on their behalf. Sixteen months ago, Justina was a figure skater. Today, she cannot stand, sit, or walk on her own. It is unconscionable what happened to Justina, and we must do all we can to prevent it from ever happening again. Removing federal funding from such experimentation is an important first step.”

The bill’s co-sponsors, Democrats and Republicans alike, weighed in with similarly strong statements.