The people’s veto campaign seeking to overturn a Maine law that eliminated philosophical and religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations has raised nearly one-third of its contributions from the chiropractic industry.

According to an analysis of $161,841 in donations made to the Mainers for Health and Parental Rights political action committee, $51,225 was raised from more than three dozen chiropractors, chiropractic assistants and those who are licensed as chiropractic acupuncture specialists, nearly all in Maine. That total includes a $25,000 loan from Stephanie Grondin, the office manager at Capital City Chiropractic, the Augusta practice where her husband, Travis Grondin, treats patients.

The donor list, maintained by the Maine Commission on Government Ethics and Election Practices, includes all contributions made through Sept. 30, the most recent filing deadline. Most of the fundraising – $109,246 – came during the July 1-Sept. 30 period.

A PAC set up to defend the vaccination law, Maine Families for Vaccines, was created in late September and has not reported any contributions.

Although there is no requirement to list a profession when donating, many individuals do, which made it possible to identify some chiropractors. However, many of the donors who did not list a profession or put “self-employed” turned out to be chiropractors as well.

Several other donors identified themselves as therapists, counselors and acupuncturists, and there were multiple nurses, as well as an OB/GYN physician and a pediatric cardiologist. Still, the chiropractic industry was the most represented and the profession has a history of speaking out about vaccine mandates in other states.

“Many health practitioners, particularly those who are not funded or lobbied by Big Pharma, oppose this terrible law because it removes their patient’s right to informed consent, a sacred and foundational principle of our modern medical system,” Mainers for Parental Rights campaign manager Cara Sacks said in a statement. “Chiropractors, along with physicians, registered nurses and countless other healthcare providers are one portion of our broad coalition of thousands of Mainers. It’s no surprise to us that doctors and nurses are standing up for their patients against government-mandated vaccines.”

Robert Reed, executive director of the Maine Chiropractic Association, said the organization has not taken an official position on the people’s veto because “it’s outside our scope of practice.”

He said opinions about vaccines vary widely among chiropractors, but added, “we do believe in the right of patients to make their own medical decisions.”

Maine’s new law, which passed this spring by votes of 79-62 in the House and 19-16 in the Senate, repealed so-called philosophical and religious exemptions in state laws governing immunization requirements for children attending school. Children who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons would still be exempt.

The law was to be implemented for the 2021-22 school year, giving health officials time to iron out the details.

However, opponents of the law signaled shortly after its passage that they planned to challenge it and last month they submitted more than 77,000 valid signatures, far more than the 63,054 needed to put a people’s veto question on the ballot.

The Secretary of State’s Office still needs to certify the petitions.

Laura Blaisdell, a pediatrician and founding member of Maine Families for Vaccines, which formed to oppose the people’s veto, said she noticed the high number of chiropractors who have contributed to the effort to overturn the law. Asked whether she was concerned that vaccination opponents had the perceived support of a group of health care providers, Blaisdell said, “I can only speak as a board-certified pediatrician and from my experience that the vast majority of Mainers do not want to roll back modern medicine and leave schools vulnerable to outbreaks.”

Blaisdell said Maine Families for Vaccines has not ramped up its fund-raising effort, but said she expects significant grassroots support to defeat the people’s veto.

Several of the chiropractors who donated to the campaign did not return messages left Monday and Tuesday by the Press Herald.

Chiropractors have supported efforts to preserve exemptions for vaccine laws in other states, most notably in California in 2015.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the California Chiropractic Association, a 2,700-member group, opposed a similar proposal to end “belief exemptions” in that state.

A story published in Forbes Magazine in 2016 revealed that prominent anti-vaccination advocate Andrew Wakefield was a keynote speaker at the International Chiropractors Association’s Annual Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics in Maui, Hawaii.

A study that Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet in 1998 linking vaccinations to autism was widely discredited and later retracted. He also produced and directed an anti-vaccination documentary film.

This summer, a chiropractor in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was ordered to pay $100,000 in fines as part of a settlement agreement over charges of professional misconduct after she made online posts questioning vaccination and immunization.

Chiropractors do not hold medical degrees, but do have advanced training in chiropractic care and are licensed. Many favor treatments that avoid traditional medicine.

Maine licenses chiropractors, possibly because in 1994 it became the first state to require every health maintenance organization in Maine to include chiropractic coverage for services and chiropractic providers in their networks.

According to the Maine Office of Professional and Financial Regulation, there are 622 active licensed chiropractors, chiropractic assistants and licensed chiropractic acupuncture specialists in Maine.

During a public hearing on the bill that became the new law, hundreds of people provided often emotional testimony on both sides.

Some chiropractors who donated to the people’s veto campaign testified against the bill, including Andrew Wawra of Brunswick, who donated $4,000.

Wawra, according to his written testimony, did not identify himself as a chiropractor but rather as an electrical and biomedical engineer. He testified that “Maine’s rules for what qualifies for a medical exemption do not follow the CDC’s recommendations,” and that “doctors are not able to provide medical exemptions at their discretion.”

“As a deeply religious person I cannot, and will not, compromise our rights as parents to choose our children’s medical care or consent to treatment that unnecessarily puts our children’s health at risk,” he said.

Wawra further said that if L.D. 798 passed, he would move to another state. He did not respond to messages left on Monday and Tuesday.

Another major contributor to the people’s veto effort was Stephanie Grondin, who manages her husband’s Capital City Chiropractic office in Augusta.

She also testified in opposition to the bill on the basis that “some vaccines, including several that are required for school attendance, contain materials that are deeply objectionable both morally and religiously for me and many other Mainers.”

Stephanie Grondin did not respond to messages left Monday and Tuesday.

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