Judge Rules Indiana University Can Force Vaccines On Roughly 90,000 students and 40,000 employees

Protesters holding placards gather at Indiana University’s Sample Gates during the demonstration. Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/Shutter

Indiana University students are now being forced to take a COVID-19 vaccination should they want to continue their education after a federal judge refused on Monday to block the school’s mandate.

U.S. District Court Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend, Indiana, rejected the argument by eight students that the school had violated their bodily autonomy and constitutional right to due process.

“This university policy isn’t forced vaccination,” wrote the judge. “The students have options — taking the vaccine, applying for a religious exemption, applying for a medical exemption, applying for a medical deferral, taking a semester off, or attending another university.”

Other universities have already denied students legitimate medical exemptions for the shot, including an incoming college freshman diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome who lost her scholarship and admission due to refusal of the vaccine.

The students sued last month and asked the judge to block the school’s requirement of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend. Exempted students are forced to follow separate COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

“Today’s ruling does not end the students’ fight — we plan to immediately appeal the judge’s decision,” states James Bopp, a conservative activist attorney who represented the students.

Per Reuters, more than 500 colleges and universities have mandated the COVID-19 vaccine, and Leichty’s ruling appears to be the first in a case challenging such a policy.

“At one point during Tuesday’s proceedings, the subject of exemptions to the vaccine were presented,” wrote reporter Zach Horner. “Bopp and Judge Damon R. Leichty went back and forth over IU needing to require exemptions for religious reasons, bodily autonomy, and right to choose medical treatment. The judge said, with regard to bodily autonomy, there is no caselaw precedent set to establish bodily autonomy as a fundamental right, and that it is a liberty, thus may not be a reason to scrap the vaccine mandate from IU.”

The statement by Judge Leichty claiming that there is no case law precedent on the right to bodily integrity is not true, with examples dating back 130 years showing the contrary. In Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health (1990), the Supreme Court asserted emphatically: “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body, and a surgeon who performs an operation without his patient’s consent commits an assault, for which he is liable in damages.”