Monday, February 5, 2007

Whatever Happened to Choice?

Texas has recently passed a law requiring school-aged girls to get a vaccine against cervical cancer. We have the choice to abort our children, but we can't choose whether we want a vaccine? Something doesn't add up here.

Required STD shots worry some parents
Texas governor orders cervical cancer vaccine for schoolgirls

AUSTIN, Texas - Some conservatives and parents’ rights groups worry that requiring girls to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way they raise their children.

By using an executive order that bypassed the Legislature, Republican Gov. Rick Perry — himself a conservative — on Friday avoided such opposition, making Texas the first state to mandate that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the virus.

Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade will have to receive Gardasil, Merck & Co.’s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. In addition, he ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21.

Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” he said.

Opponents say Perry should have let the Legislature decide whether to impose a mandate.

“He’s circumventing the will of the people,” said Dawn Richardson, president of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education, a citizens group that fought for the right to opt out of other vaccine requirements. “There are bills filed. There’s no emergency except in the boardrooms of Merck, where this is failing to gain the support that they had expected.”

Texas allows parents to opt out of inoculations by filing an affidavit objecting to the vaccine on religious or philosophical reasons. Conservative groups say such provisions still interfere with parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their children.

The executive order is effective until Perry or a successor changes it, and the Legislature has no authority to repeal it, said Perry spokeswoman Krista Moody. Moody said the Texas Constitution permits the governor, as head of the executive branch, to order other members of the executive branch to adopt rules like this one.

Bankrolling state laws
The federal government approved Gardasil in June, and a government advisory panel has recommended that all girls get the shots at 11 and 12, before they are likely to be sexually active.

Merck could generate billions in sales if Gardasil — at $360 for the three-shot regimen — were made mandatory across the country. Most insurance companies now cover the vaccine, which has been shown to have no serious side effects.

The New Jersey-based drug company is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

Perry has ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company’s three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff. His current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.

The governor also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.

A top official from Merck’s vaccine division sits on Women in Government’s business council, and many of the bills around the country have been introduced by members of Women in Government.

Merck spokeswoman Janet Skidmore would not say how much the company is spending on lobbyists or how much it has donated to Women in Government. Susan Crosby, the group’s president, also declined to specify how much the drug company gave.


Nikki said...

I thought the very same thing. Wouldn't this encourage children? Is this like giving out condoms in schools? But I also know that I'm going to teach my children to abstain from pre-marital sex. I would hope that their future spouse did too. However, my friend who has three young girls pointed out to me that she'd rather they be vaccinated in case they were ever raped. That's not really something you can predict. So, I've been thinking on that since. My little girl is 3. The thought of her being raped absolutely horrifies me. But the thought of her being raped, ending up with an STD resulting in cervical cancer is even worse.

MommaBlogger said...

I have a close friend that was raped, and she struggled for a long time with it. It was difficult to watch her worry for so long over whether she was pregnant, or would contract some sort of disease, not to mention the emotional stress.

However, to force her to take a vaccine would in my opinion, be almost the same thing. Not knowing whether the vaccine itself could cause some sort of adverse side effect, or even it's own form of cancer. Vaccines have many risks, and most of them are not properly communicated.

While I don't know if this is quite parallel to handing out condoms in the schools, I'm sure it wouldn't help. That is one of the many reasons we chose to homeschool. We would like to teach our children on their terms, not the ideals of some educator that does not share our beliefs.

Nikki said...

A wonderful point. My hubby and I talked a long time last night (after I posted my comment) about the potential harm and side effects of this vaccine. It's definitely something to continue researching. Perhaps there will be more options in the next few years and a better knowledge of this vaccine.

We too have chosen to homeschool for the same reasons.