During a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H. on Wednesday, the Democrat likened concerns over mandatory vaccinations to the abortion.
“To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate,” NBC News reporter Julia Jester says Williamson told supporters. “The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
The author and spiritual adviser also reportedly called mandatory vaccinations “draconian and Orwellian.”
Like Jessica Biel — who last week received backlash after voicing opposition to a California bill which would limit medical exemptions for vaccinations — Williamson has been criticized for her remarks. Many critics, including comedian Kathy Griffin, accused her of endangering public health, as anti-vaccination views have been blamed for outbreaks of measles and chicken pox.
One critic, author and columnist Siva Vaidhyanathan also pointed out the irony of Williamson citing George Orwell, writer of 1984 and Animal Farm.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the 2020 hopeful is now changing course and voicing support for vaccines.
“I understand that many vaccines are important and save lives,” Williamson told the paper. “I also understand some of the skepticism that abounds today about drugs which are rushed to market by Big Pharma. I am sorry that I made comments which sounded as though I question the validity of life-saving vaccines. That is not my feeling and I realize that I misspoke.”
Speaking through a spokeswoman, she added, “I support vaccines. Public safety must be carefully balanced with the right of individuals to make their own decisions.”
It’s not the first time Williamson’s remarks about vaccines have made headlines. In a 2015 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, she said that she’d had her own daughter vaccinated, but understood the “skepticism” surrounding them.
Williamson followed that up with a tweet expressing mistrust in pharmaceutical companies.