What Should Rick Perry Say About Gardasil?

The Republican presidential primaries have been temporarily hijacked by a single incident in Rick Perry’s decade-plus tenure as governor of Texas. Despite Michele Bachmann’s ludicrous claim that Gardasil causes mental retardation, let’s recall that not one single schoolgirl was vaccinated by the offensive executive order: The legislature overturned it long before the school year began.

Furthermore, the executive order did not comprise a mandate. Like today’s Governor Perry, I agree that the vaccination should have required parental opting in, not parental opting out to avoid it. Obamacare, on the other hand, has a mandate to buy government-dictated health insurance: If it withstands legal challenges, you will not be able to turn it down by getting a note from your parents!

So what else can Governor Perry say about Gardasil?

First, he need not retreat from his position that Gardasil is good medicine. As Henry I. Miller writes, it has an outstanding reward/risk ratio.  However, conservatives know that the greater threat in a democracy comes from politicians who intend to do good things to us, rather than those who intend to do bad things to us.

So, he needs to recant the executive order in toto, not just the opting-out provision. HPV may be described as an “epidemic” but it is not communicable in normal social situations. There was no emergency — hurricane, flood, or swine flu — that demanded immediate action. If Governor Perry really thought that the vaccinations would have been good policy, he should have found a sponsor in the legislature and had it debated and voted on there. He should tell us that the blow-back has reminded him of the importance of separation of powers in our democracy.

Finally, he should remind us (once again) of the Tenth Amendment. While Texas might have the power to implement such a policy, he should declare that he sees no such power delegated to any branch of the federal government. Thus, it is not a relevant topic for his presidential campaign.


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