Amid measles outbreak, anti-vaccination mother defends "medical freedom"

Families fight measles vaccination fines

Health officials fear Americans traveling for this weekend's religious holidays could worsen the growing measles outbreak. There are at least 555 confirmed cases in 20 states, according to the CDC, and most are said to involve school age kids.

A judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit Thursday that challenged an emergency declaration requiring residents of certain hard-hit neighborhoods to get vaccinated. While the mandatory vaccinations are still in effect, the judge did strike criminal penalties from the order. New York City has issued civil summonses for fines up to $1,000 to three parents for failing to vaccinate their children. 

CBS News' Mola Lenghi spoke to one of the parents who is suing New York City, which is facing the largest measles outbreak in the country, over an order to ban unvaccinated people from public places.

"They said they won't be bullied, these are very brave people who came forward," said attorney Robert Krakow, who represents the families in the suit. "We're all for the appropriate measures to control an outbreak of disease … but New Yorkers are going to accept criminal penalties for vaccination, that's not appropriate. People have a right to make their choice."

The outbreak is centered around the highly concentrated Ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Williamsburg, where more than 250 cases have been reported in the last seven months.   

The city has ordered people over the age of six months who live or go to school in parts of Williamsburg to get vaccinated or face a $1,000 fine. And in Rockland County those infected with measles must avoid public places and stay in their homes for 21 days. Failure to comply can result in a fine of two thousand dollars per violation, per day.

One of the parents involved in the suit, who did not want her identity revealed, said it's not about religion but her rights and believes she doing what's best for her child.   

"This is about consent and medical freedom," she said. "I teach my child that our bodies are our own. We can say when and where, yes and no. Whether it's in the workplace or in an intimate moment. That doesn't stop because the government says you have to do x, y, or z."

She also said she very much cares about the health of other children, but believes hers is healthy and would not expose her child if they were not. 

On Wednesday, the Washington State Senate passed a measure that would remove an option parents have to not vaccinate their kids against measles, mumps and rubella.