The South Dakota Senate voted on Thursday to strip legislative power from State Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, a Republican, after she had a conversation with a staffer about her opinions on vaccines.
According to the Argus Leader, Frye-Mueller said Thursday, "It has come to my attention that the issue may involve a conversation I had with staff, where I promoted my well-known stance on medical freedom and the ability of individuals to choose the best courts of medical treatment for themselves."
According to local news, Senate leadership released a statement saying Frye-Mueller engaged in "inappropriate behavior and harassment related to private maternal matters, including childhood vaccines and breastfeeding."
Sen. Michael Rohl, the Republican lawmaker who initiated the suspension, claims that there are "serious allegations" that had to be addressed in order to ensure a safe work environment.
"The Senate will operate swiftly and diligently through the process of an investigation and provide the opportunity for due process to all parties involved," Rohl said.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 27-6 to suspend Frye-Mueller and form an investigative committee, but have yet to comment on the allegations that led them to this decision.
The Senate Republican leader, Casey Crabtree, said simply that the legislative punishment was "brought after a lot of serious thought," while another high-ranking Republican, Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, claims it was meant to "protect the decorum" of the law-making body.
Not all Senate Republicans supported the move. One of Frye-Mueller's allies, Sen. Tom Pischke, claims that it was based on a "she said-she said situation," and that Frye-Mueller's constituents shouldn't be deprived of their representation in the State Senate.
Frye-Mueller claims that she did not bring up the Covid vaccine but told reporters she believes the suspension was a punishment for a conversation she had with a legislative aide regarding vaccines in general.
"I have a right to defend myself," she said just before the senate vote on Tuesday.
Childhood vaccination rates have fallen nationwide in recent years, whch the CDC believes is related to decreased confidence in vaccines exacerbated by the forced vaccinations of the pandemic.
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