In 1971, Idaho law was changed by the Legislature to allow medical neglect of children through a religious exemption. The result is that injured and sick children suffering and dying from treatable illnesses like pneumonia and gastroenteritis (stomach flu) do not get routine medical care. Imagine the fear of a child, ill with pneumonia, who knows that medical care will not be provided. Or having a broken bone that never gets set, resulting in a permanent preventable disability.

Even though these children are not my own, I cannot turn a blind eye to this injustice. Nor should our Legislature which created this situation in 1971. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires equal protection under the law for all, except apparently in Idaho where a parent’s belief against medical care is given greater importance than a child’s right to life and health.

Advances in medical treatment and prevention, while imperfect, have resulted in a 90 percent reduction in death rates in U.S. children since 1935 and greater than 50 percent just since 1980. Yet some Idaho children will not have the opportunity to fully benefit from these advances.

In Gov. Otter’s State of the State address on Jan. 8, he reminded us of government’s role in “helping individual citizens realize their full potential” and the government’s responsibility to provide “equal protection under the law."

Please join other concerned citizens on President’s Day February 19, 2018, to march to the Idaho Capital Building and remind Idaho’s legislators of their responsibility to protect all of Idaho’s children and correct this injustice. More information about the march and information about how to contact your legislators are available at

Dr. Carolyn Bridges

Captain, U.S. Public Health Service (retired)