Parent Group and 11-Year-Old Child Escorted From American Academy of Pediatrics Convention
From a Press Release by the National Autism Association
“We have the freedom of speech, but not the freedom to be heard,” says one parent after being thrown out of conference in DC.
On Saturday morning, six parents and an 11-year-old child were removed from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Convention. They were escorted by security officers after being told by coordinators that they were not welcome. The parents, two of which are medical professionals, were pre-registered to work at a booth and hand out materials to pediatricians about autism. Two camera crews were also escorted out prior to the ouster of the parent group so that the AAP’s actions could not be recorded by the media.
According to parents, Cynthia Airhart, AAP Director of Division of Convention and Meeting Services, said that even though the group was pre- registered, their badges would not be issued because the group had broken the AAP rule of disseminating information at a demonstration outside of the conference. When it was pointed out to her that not all of the parents had done so, she changed her reason for banning them and said it was because they took part in Friday’s “Power of Parents” rally, a non-hostile and family- friendly event on Capitol Hill which focused on the association between mercury and autistic-like symptoms.
One of those asked to leave was an 11-year-old child who had been previously diagnosed with autism and was subsequently found to have suffered from mercury toxicity. After biomedical treatments aimed at correcting the many known sequela of mercury exposure, the child has made remarkable improvement. His plan was to hand brochures to doctors in order to spread awareness about autism and the potential for effective biomedical treatments. After he was escorted from the premises, the young boy was terribly upset. “He only wanted to help raise awareness and felt like he had failed in doing so,” said his mother. “It is a sad day when a child is asked to leave a meeting which is supposed to be about the care of children.”
Not all participants of the conference agreed with AAP’s actions.
Many of the pediatricians were surprised and gave the escorted parents words of encouragement for their work in speaking about the disorder. Many also signed a petition at the booth.
Rita Shreffler was allowed to stay, but was accused of stealing someone else’s badge in order to enter the conference. After she showed proper identification, Ms. Shreffler, a mother of two vaccine-injured children, was followed around the conference for the remainder of the day.
“I feel as though the AAP violated our civil rights and grossly overreacted to an embarrassing level,” says Shreffler.
Other parents expressed similar dismay over first amendment rights violations after being escorted out by AAP security for wearing T-shirts with messages regarding the role of mercury-containing vaccines in the development of their children’s neurological disorders.
Parents traveled from as far away as Hawaii to have the opportunity to address pediatricians and ask for help for their autistic children. Several political figures were also on the list to be banned. Although Congressman Dave Weldon, Congressman Dan Burton, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Representative Carolyn Maloney had no intention of going to the conference, the AAP stated that they would be turned away after delivering speeches at Friday’s rally.
“We came here today asking for help for our injured children. We brought with us relevant new research and information that the AAP denied its members access to. Why?” asks parent and president of the National Autism Association, Wendy Fournier. “The AAP should be ashamed of the treatment we received here today. I hope its members will look beyond their leadership in search of treatment options for their patients with autism.”
Last year, the AAP refused to print an ad in their journal that thanked pediatricians for their work and dedication to the autism cause and asked them to request mercury-free vaccines from vendors.
Just this year, the New York AAP fought a measure that, starting in 2008, would limit mercury exposure in vaccines given to children under three and pregnant women. Governor Pataki was asked by the AAP to veto the measure after it passed unanimously in the State Senate and passed 147-3 in the State Assembly.