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May 18, 2006

Harmful to Minors - Conservative Christian Paranoia

-- by Thomas Leavitt

So, Merck has allegedly developed a 100% effective and safe* vacinne against HPV (human papilloma virus), which together cause "nearly 70 percent of all cervical cancers and genital warts". The vacinne can work in girls as young as 9 years old, and so could easily be incorporated into childhood vaccination routines and essentially wipe these things out. Wonderful news, right?

Not if you're Focus on the Family, or Physicians Consortium (an obscure ultra-conservative organization whose spokesperson is blithely quoted in this article without any background whatsoever being supplied about it) - apparently, these folks are prepared to risk having untold numbers of young women become infected by HPV and have god knows how many develop cervical cancer, et. al., as a result, because the virii in question are "sexually transmitted" and this makes them somehow exempt from the normal logic applied to preventative medicine.

To the point of this blog, note that no "liberal family groups" are quoted or identified as supporting adding this to the normal set of vaccinations. Instead, you have a politician and a bureaucrat vs. two right-wingers, one of them so far off the deep end that he makes Focus on the Family sound reasonable. Classic example of a "balanced" piece of journalism from modern American media.

Apparently the concept that:

a) young girls and women can be abused and raped, and while nothing reduces the horror of such an event, I'm sure they'd be happier not carrying around HPV and getting cervical cancer as a result... and not having to worry about it

b) young women (just like young men) can display awfully bad judgement and/or naivete, the results of which can be disasterous... but a lot less lingering and damaging if they aren't accompanied an HPV infection and cervical cancer!

I have two young step-daughters, 11 and 12, and while I sincerely and profoundly hope that nothing awful happens to them, and any lapses of judgement or naivete on their part are minimal and minimally traumatic, if there was a way I could get them a vaccine which would 100% guarantee immunity to any and all "STDs", I'd jump on it forthwith, and sleep much easier at night as a result. Do I think that such a vacination would somehow induce them to be promiscuous or careless? I'd sure hope not, sure would hope that some of the many things they've been told by parents, teachers, and as many authority figures as possible would be present in their mind at any moment of decision.


Seriously, I don't get the logic put forth by these people:

"This is a disease that's sexually transmitted," said Linda Klepacki, spokeswoman for Focus on the Family. "Because of that, this is a very personal subject and we feel parents should make that decision for their children."
Other opponents go further. Hal Wallace, head of the Physicians Consortium, says the vaccine would send kids a message that, "you just take this shot and you can be as sexually promiscuous as you want."

What are they afraid of? That a shot administered by a doctor at age 9 or 10 is somehow going to have a greater impact on their children's attitude and behavior than a lifetime of parental and churchly indoctrination?!? Explain to me, exactly, how that would work? If that is not the case, and parental and social and religious guidance all weigh more heavily in a young woman's decision making process, then what is there to fear?

Or is the truth that they don't see themselves as credible proponents of their own values, and need the "stick" of STDs to keep their kids in line? That's the only rationale I can see.

... and personally, given the rate at which young women are abused and raped, and the lifetime consequences of contracting HPV as a result, I don't see the "benefits" as a worthwhile tradeoff.

* I'll reserve my skepticism about any such claims for the moment.

Posted by Thomas Leavitt at May 18, 2006 9:53 AM

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