His third question from the crowd was about an issue that his critics have touched on — his 2007 mandate for girls to get vaccinated against the cervical cancer-causing HPV virus.
“I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” he said. “I hate cancer. Let me tell you, as a son who has a mother and father who are both cancer survivors.”
Perry said he’d invested government resources in cancer cures, adding, “I hate cancer. And this HPV, we were seeing young ladies die at the early age. What we should have done was a program that frankly should have allowed them to opt in, or some type of program like that, but here’s what I learned — when you get too far out in front of the parade they will let you know. And that’s exactly what our legislature did.”
I'm glad he's recognized he was wrong, and even admits he should have set up an opt-in program than mandating its use with parents permitted to petition -- subject to state approval -- to exempt their children from "Doctor" Rick Perry's prescription. The reality was that he backed down in 2007 rather than get his butt kicked by the GOP-controlled legislature -- but apparently time has caused his views to mature.
But let's look at the reality of that 2007 effort.
Here are the problems with Perry’s actions in this situation.
1) He acted unilaterally, with no consultation with members of the legislative branch.
2) It is questionable whether or not Perry had the authority under the Texas Constitution or statutory law to impose the requirement.
3) Perry and his aides argued that not only did he have the right to issue the executive order, but that the Texas Legislature lacked the authority to overturn his actions or prohibit the use of state money to fund the vaccination program.
4) HPV is different from every other disease for which the state of Texas requires vaccination as a condition of enrollment in school. The others can be easily passed in a normal classroom setting in the course of the ordinary activity of going to school. HPV, on the other hand, is not ordinarily passed under such conditions — therefore the nexus between school enrollment and the vaccine is lacking.
5) If Perry’s reasoning is accepted as legitimate, then there is no legitimate barrier to a future governor issuing an executive order mandating that girls receive Norplant as a condition of enrolling in school beginning in sixth grade. After all, given the multitude of societal problems caused by teen pregnancy and the negative impact on the future of girls who do become pregnant, there is a compelling argument that such a mandate is beneficial to society and the girls — religious, moral, legal, and constitutional questions notwithstanding — and that argument is every bit as compelling as the argument for Gardasil (actually more so, given the number of teen pregnancies every year).
Besides, I think that the commercial that the manufacturer put out at the time really offers the best critique of Perry’s misdeeds in this case. It said “ask your doctor if Gardasil is right for you” — but nowhere suggested consultation with your governor or other elected officials. It is therefore clear that Rick Perry’s decision to play doctor with the little girls of Texas was the wrong one.
And before you ask, this statement still does not convert me into a Perry supporter. I still have the same reservations about him I did when I wrote this piece during the gubernatorial primary in 2010, and it will take more effort on his part to bring me around to support him for the nomination.
ADDENDUM: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers!