HARRISBURG, Pa. — With signs in hand and strong opinions, dozens gathered on the Capitol steps calling for freedom regarding wearing masks, getting vaccinated and the type of medicines they should use for treating COVID-19.
"There should be no mandates, this is our bodies, this is our choice to make a decision about what we want to put in it," said one woman.
Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano organized the event, calling it the "Medical Freedom Rally."
"No one should be at risk of losing their job, their profession, their reputation because they disagree with what the establishment says is acceptable," said Mastriano speaking to the crowd.
The rally comes after Sen. Mastriano wrote three bills calling for medical independence:
- Senate Bill 471 -- prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine mandates by state, county or local governments as a condition of employment, entrance to services, ability to purchase goods or services, or to receive medical care.
- Senate Bill 968 (not yet introduced) – providing exemptions for employees from vaccination mandates related to COVID-19 and recourse for employees denied stated exemptions.
- Senate Bill 885 – ensuring workers terminated or forced to resign by their employer for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination will qualify for full unemployment benefits.
Democrats fired back at the bills and stated vaccines save lives.
"We know what the ones who are not vaccinated are the ones filling up hospital beds across the country, particularly here in Pennsylvania," said Democrat Senator Jay Costa, who represents Allegheny County.
At the rally, one former nurse said she was fired for refusing to get the vaccine.
" [I'm] very disappointed because it's impacting my livelihood. I'm a mother of five children, I'm widowed," said Linda Cosgrove of Delaware County.
In a statement, the Wolf administration said:
"This anti-vaccination legislation is misguided and irresponsible. This short-sighted, harmful legislation will only make infectious diseases more difficult to fight. Republicans should be focused on ending the pandemic by encouraging their constituents to get vaccinated, supporting our workforce and growing our economy, instead of wasting taxpayer time and money."
Two of Senator Mastriano's bills are awaiting votes in the state senate, however, Senator Costa says if they receive the green light, it's high unlikely Governor Wolf will sign them.