The Spectacle Blog

Perry Is Full of It on Gardasil Vaccines

By on 9.22.11 | 10:30PM

Rick Perry now says he should have used an "opt-in" for the HPV vaccines rather than opt-out. He keeps going back to the idea of "erring on the side of life."

Weeks before this became a debate issue, Andrew Ferguson of the Weekly Standard told the true story. It paints Perry in a far worse light:

In 2007​-​to cite another example​-​Perry issued an executive order requiring every 6th-grade girl in the state to be immunized with Gardasil, a vaccine against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, the leading cause of cervical cancer. Texas conservatives called it governmental overreach and usurpation of family authority; good-government critics noticed that Perry's executive order was a windfall for Merck, the maker of Gardisil, whose Austin lobbyist was a close ally of the governor. The Texas legislature overrode Perry and the order was dropped. What was most revealing about the episode was Perry's response to his defeat. In New Hampshire earlier this month he was asked about the controversy. "I saluted [the legislature]," he said, "and I said, ‘Roger that. I hear you loud and clear.' " That's not quite what happened. After the legislature overruled him, Perry called a press conference and surrounded himself in front of the cameras with cancer survivors, women in wheelchairs, and victims of rape. Arguments about parental rights fell before the cold fact of how much money the state would save with the vaccinations: treatment for cancer, he pointed out, could cost $250,000, much of it borne by taxpayers, while a vaccine cost $350​-​the same doctrine of "social costs" later used by President Obama and many others to justify mandatory health insurance and state-run health care. Then Perry accused his opponents of moral depravity. He showed a video of a bedridden woman wreathed in medical tubes, lamenting the heartlessness of the legislators. "In the next year, more than a thousand women will likely be diagnosed with this insidious yet mostly preventable disease," said Perry, according to the Houston Chronicle. "I challenge legislators to look these women in the eyes and tell them, ‘We could have prevented this disease for your daughters and granddaughters, but we just didn't have the gumption to address all the misguided and misleading political rhetoric.' " The lives of young Texas women, he said, had been "sacrificed on the altar of political expediency." It was left to Dennis Bonnen, a state legislator, to make the argument for restraining the government's power, even when noble goals are in view. He pointed out that the vaccine would still be available for free from the state for parents who wanted to procure it for their daughters. "Just because you don't want to offer up 165,000 11-year-old girls to be Merck's study group," Bonnen complained, "doesn't mean you don't care about women's health, doesn't mean you don't care about young girls."

There's something about Perry that reminds me not of GW Bush, but of Lyndon Johnson. This guy is all about power. He's politically canny. But he's all sharp elbows. And, well.... I'll save some of my other thoughts. I just find him disconcerting. Read the whole Ferguson piece. It's good.

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