In what can only be called a stunning decision, a conservative Republican Governor is taking a stand against cervical cancer, even when his political “base” is against his position:
Mr. Perry’s action, praised by health advocates, caught many by surprise in a largely conservative state where sexual politics is often a battleground.
Under the order, girls and women from 9 to 21 eligible for public assistance could get free shots immediately. The governor’s office said parents could opt out of the school program “for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs.”
“Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into contact with HPV is responsible health and fiscal policy that has the potential to significantly reduce cases of cervical cancer and mitigate future medical costs,” said Mr. Perry, who was re-elected to his second full term last November.
HPV, affecting 20 million people nationally, including one in four 15-to-24-year-olds, is the nation’s most common sexually transmitted disease. Texas has the second-highest number of women with cervical cancer, with nearly 400 deaths last year, the governor’s statement noted.
The vaccine, approved for ages 9 to 26, is given in three shots over eight months. The shots are effective for at least five years, and together cost $360, said Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is amazing news. But there’s more:
Merck 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.
Some of my “left-of-center” buddies were quick to accuse Perry of doing the bidding of a big donor. It may very well be the case.
But does that change things? Even if Gov. Rick Perry has “sold out” to the drug lobby, isn’t that OK if it saves hundreds of lives? I’m all for voting out the crooks, but lets get some perspective. If Merck’s influence over the Governor of Texas will save even one young woman’s life, then I say God bless him. Most Christian conservatives are against the vaccine; they say it’ll make girls more likely to have sex. They’d rather seen women die, I guess.
Republicans are like Labradors; I’m inclined to reward them for good behavior. In Gov. Rick Perry’s case, he gets a Milkbone from me for showing some “enlightenment.”