Sunday, September 18, 2011

Support for the HPV Vaccine from an Unusual Source

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, writes a syndicated column offering perspectives I don't usually agree with. Today, though, he took on Michele Bachmann and the anti-vaccine crowd, and I was very impressed with both his logic and his writing.

It started with this, which the Star Tribune excerpted as the article lead-in: "Bachmann herself seems prone to a serious condition: the compulsive desire to confirm every evangelical stereotype of censorious ignorance."

In refuting the belief that the HPV vaccine somehow will cause teens to become promiscuous, Gerson writes:

...it is unlikely that a 16-year-old making sexual choices is focused on her chances of getting a cancer that might develop 20 years in the future -- a hypothetical event beyond the time horizon of the adolescent mind.

The more disturbing moral failure concerns any parent who would entertain this argument.
Try to imagine a parent-daughter conversation about sexual restraint and maturity that includes the words: "Honey, I'm going to deny you a vaccine that prevents a horrible, bleeding cancer, just as a little reminder of the religious values I've been trying to teach you."
 He also gave an example that is exactly the same as one I have been making when discussing the vaccine:
Consider a woman who is resolutely abstinent until her marriage at 24. Her husband -- who got HPV from a girlfriend who was not vaccinated -- unknowingly gives it to his wife on their wedding night, increasing her risk for cervical cancer. She would suffer because others are not vaccinated.

The decision to vaccinate -- for HPV or any infectious disease -- is not just a personal, family choice. It is also a matter of public health. And it is not unreasonable for public authorities to strongly encourage responsible parental choices.
 Wow, Mr. Gerson, if you keep writing like that, they may take away your Heritage Foundation credentials!

I wonder if Gerson has some personal experience with HPV and cervical cancer in his family -- which I suspect may also be the case with Rick Perry. That's just speculation, of course, but it seems as though when super-conservatives do something I consider reasonable (like Dick Cheney being so moderate on the gay marriage issue because his daughter is a lesbian), it's because they have a personal story that makes the issue real to them, and not just a political football.

2 comments:

Ms Sparrow said...

Gerson exhibits a higher degree of clear thinking than most of the presidential hopefuls. What with Republican supporters cheering approval for Texas execution rates and for letting those without health insurance die, it seems like Sarah Palin's purported "death squads" are Republicans.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Interesting. Hooray for Ms. Sparrow's comment as well!