Michelle Bachmann and the HPV Vaccine Controversy

I’ve been keeping Dr. Wife abreast of the controversy raging among conservatives about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s mandate to vaccinate 12 year old girls against HPV. She is very supportive of the vaccine saying “It is one of the few weapons against cancer we have,” and believes that boys should get it as well since they can be carriers of the virus, and it is not known whether the virus contributes to other male urinary tract diseases such as prostate and bladder cancer.  What is known is that it prevents cervical cancer in women, and may protect them against other cancers as well.

I have been an apologist for Michelle Bachmann, believing that she has been treated unfairly by a misogynistic press that hates conservatives. But her attempts to beat Perry down with this controversy have crossed the line from political theater into the absurd. By courting the anti-vaccine crowd she has shacked up with Ron Paul in Crazytown and shown that she may be just as loony as the left-wing press has made her out to be.

I have serious issues with Perry’s mandate. I believe the government has the right to interfere in parenting only in certain egregious cases of abuse. Being a libertarian-minded parent myself I have had my share of run-ins with ideologues who think they know better than I do what is best for my child. It is an issue that resonates in my family since my parents fought an effort in the 1950’s to force my brother to have an experimental open-heart surgery that most likely would have killed him. My father risked going to jail rather than see his son experimented on, and it was only after my brother’s pediatrician intervened on my father’s behalf that the state backed down.

So Perry’s open for some serious criticism on the mandate issue. Since the HPV virus is only sexually transmitted it’s not like he had to mandate the vaccine in order to prevent the disease easily spreading like measles or meningitis.

But what Bachmann has done is conflated the mandate issue with the vaccination issue – and here she has gone off the rails. There is no scientific evidence that the vaccine is dangerous. All vaccines have side effects and some may even cause deaths in a tiny fraction of recipients, but that risk is overwhelmed by the lives they have saved and the cases of diseases they have prevented.

I am a climate change skeptic because consensus shouldn’t mean squat in science and the data isn’t there to support the AGW theory. But I am at heart a scientist and the evidence that vaccines save lives is overwhelming. Anyone who doubts their power should visit the 3rd World and see children dying from diphtheria and mumps as I have; it’s not pretty and it’s completely preventable. Bachmann needs to walk back her statements on this controversy or risk losing the support of people like me who are Republicans AND scientifically-minded. The GOP shouldn’t become the party of ignorance, but it is well on its way if Bachmann continues this line of attack.

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  1. Debbie Right Truth:

    Perry was wrong on the mandate, he was right to have an “opt out”. He admitted the mandate was wrong. I’ve always liked Bachmann, but she came across as a loon in this debate on this topic, repeating on air what some woman told her in the audience (with no facts to back up the claim). She looked crazy, wrong, and desperate. Hubby (doctor) thinks both Bachmann and Palin’s support of her statements were wrong and did her more harm than any good she might have wanted.
    The government should not force us or our children to take anything.

  2. Steven:

    Perry was wrong to MANDATE the vaccine, but he’s done one thing most politicians won’t: ADMITTED he was wrong.

    Also – one thing that grated on me: Clearly Bachman, who I also generally support, I love her ideas and straightforward manner, was totally playing the woman card. IMO, one of the most desctructive movements in America is PC Feminism. It’s now an entrenched anti-male bigtry farm (constantly growing new members in Academia) that no longer has any meaningful ties to the once noble movement of a fight for equality.

    Bachman was totally playing the “A MAN decided for WOMEN and GIRLS (read: “Teh Children!”) to force a vaccine on them.” – totally a sexist meme to play to (you could hear the women in the audience loving her telling him this).

    Each person has events that have shaped their lives. In mine, one of those was a set of repeated events that happened on college campuses over a 6 year period where I had to deal with campus feminists, and feminists outside in the real world.

    Bachman’s playing that card plays into the stereotype whereby anything that happens to a woman or a girl, especially done by some male, is worse simply because of her gender – totally going against the “strong conservative woman of equality” persona Bachman claims to be.

    In my world view – if you claim to want equality, vis a vis gender, color, regligion etc, then it’s an ALL TIME thing, not a when it’s convenient thing.

    Bachman played the wrong card. Not because of my world view – but despite it, as outlined by Scott. She ALSO played the PC victim card (a bit) and THAT - from a conservative woman, is like a white man letting slip the “N” word : it shows a person’s true character.

    Too bad – I really liked her.


  3. Scott Kirwin:

    I mentioned this again to Dr. Wife tonight (after working 12 hours she needs a beer and someone to decompress with). “She needs to attack Obama,” was her advice to Bachmann. And she’s right.

    Bachmann is trying to build herself up by tearing down Rick Perry – and it’s starting to piss off those of us who are willing to vote for just about anyone in Nov 2012 instead of Obama. She’s not going to win the nomination – or at least, she’s not going to win by tearing down Perry. All she’s doing is helping Romney. If she really wanted to win the nomination, she’d ignore Perry and become the most vicious attack dog on the Democrats the Right has seen since Lee Atwater took over Hell.

    I am still not convinced who the stronger candidate is between Romney and Perry. My gut tells me Perry but I’m still not certain.

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