Last Updated on August 12, 2021
Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the last appointment to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump, summarily denied a case from eight students of Indiana University who were challenging their institution’s vaccine mandate
Barrett, with no explanation, turned away the emergency injunction request from the students, who argued that the vaccine mandate from Indiana University violated their constitutional rights. Acting in her role as the Circuit Justice for the Seventh Circuit, which includes Indiana, acted alone, and denied the request to send it on to the Supreme Court without even asking the university to file a response to the petition. The case would have been the first time that SCOTUS examined the constitutionality of vaccine mandates.
Indiana University had announced their vaccine mandate in May, with all students, staff and faculty being forced to take the vaccine, or suffer “strong consequences,” which amount to “virtual expulsion,” including cancelling class registration and restriction from on-campus activity. Exemptions are offered but are “extremely limited,” including religious exemptions. However, those exempt are forced to be tested twice a week for COVID-19 and wear facemasks in all public spaces.
In court papers, the students argued that they have “legitimate concerns including underlying medical conditions, having natural antibodies, and the risks associated with the vaccine,” further highlighting that all of them are adults who are “entitled to make their own medical treatment decisions, and have a constitutional right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and of medical treatment choice.” In enforcing the vaccine mandate, the university is “treating its students as children who cannot be trusted to make mature decisions,” the papers continue. (READ MORE: Biden Administration Considers Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate, Suggests People Who Refuse Vaccine Are Stupid)
An amicus brief submitting by the group Physicians for Informed Consent highlighted that there is “no evidence that any of the currently available… vaccines prevent the spread” of COVID-19 and that there is evidence that the disease spreads “in spite of vaccination.” The real case for Barrett taking it to the Supreme Court and not leaving it to lower courts was because they did not act on the “heightened scrutiny” needed to examine a case which contained the potential infringement of highly important rights.
A Federal Appeals Court had previously backed the actions of Indiana University, with Judge Frank Easterbrook citing a case from 1905 that gave states the power to mandate smallpox vaccinations, and argued that anyone who didn’t want to get vaccinated “may go elsewhere” for their education, with “ample educational opportunities” available to them.