Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Women's Health is a Big Mistake

We all knew that most Republican politicians these days are questionable on the whole women's health thing. Republican presidential contenders - the ones with a chance, anyway - are uniformly anti-choice and tend to oppose things like universal health care, paid maternity leave, and comprehensive sex education, all of which have serious ramifications for women's health. So it should be no surprise that the very idea that women and girls should have a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer is verboten in the GOP.

Rick Perry is proving this point. In 2007, he mandated that all young girls be given the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, through their schools, and that it should also be made free to girls between the ages of 11-18 who did not attend public school. Religious conservatives were stunned, and now that Rick Perry is running for governor, he has had to reverse himself and call his decision - one intended to prevent cancer, remember - a mistake.

But he knew it wasn't a mistake. Check out what he said at the time, courtesy of the story linked to above:
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."

But now Perry has fallen to this rhetoric himself. The HPV vaccine is good for boys' and men's health as well - and can be given to boys and men to help prevent its spread - but that isn't part of the dialogue here. It is clearly more important to Republicans to be sure that women are firmly under their control and that they are punished for having sex. At least, punished for having sex without any given Republican dude present. The number of sex scandals Republican men get involved in demonstrates that they aren't completely anti-sex, just anti-sex that they aren't personally benefiting from.

HPV is extraordinarily common. According to the CDC,
Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50% of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
Fifty. Percent. Furthermore, 12,000 women get cervical cancer each year in the US. The vaccine prevents cervical cancer the way the measles vaccine prevents measles, but because only certain women have cervixes, and most men don't [and the men who do have cervixes present a whole other set of issues to queerphobic Republicans], then anything having to do with preventive treatment for this particular STI is taboo. The assumption is that women who don't have sex don't get STIs (or pregnant), so the sluts have it coming.

This is reprehensible. Perry actually did the right thing four years ago in encouraging vaccinations for public health. Schools require all kinds of other vaccines in order to prevent diseases like meningitis and measles from tearing through a school district and wreaking havoc on communities. This is no different. The fact that Perry has backed off means not only that he has no spine, but that there is a concerted effort on the part of Republicans to undermine women's health. I don't know about you, but I find this terrifying.


  1. I'm absolutely with you. It IS terrifying. After starting at UF, I actually investigated getting the Gardasil vaccine myself. Unfortunately, GatorGrad didn't (doesn't?) cover it, and I couldn't afford the HUNDREDS of dollars of investment in order to prevent my body from becoming exposed to something that could be particularly detrimental to my health. Just before reading your post, I had read this article on state-mandated insurance restrictions on abortion (http://jezebel.com/5833298/a-map-of-where-you-can-use-your-insurance-to-pay-for-an-abortion). I'm absolutely fed up with conservatives (and anyone else) who actively advocate legislating their version of morality over the basic health and welfare of the people in our nation. Health care--including access to vaccines that we know are beneficial--should be a right, not a privilege.

  2. Yes to everything but I don't think any vaccine should be mandatory in school. I have a feeling that's not what you were alluding to though.