While I’ve been busy uprooting my family and replanting them in Texas, I’ve put Jamie Bernstein in charge of all my duties. As VP of the Women Thinking Free Foundation, she is in charge of all of skepticism when I am away from my computer. This includes breaking into Sylvia Browne’s house and reporting on what she uses on her bunions. And next time Jamie accepts such a position, she’ll read the organization’s bylaws first.
This week, she was assigned to Tea Party coverage duty and blogging on my behalf about the anti-vax bullshit spewed by Michelle Bachmann and friends. So while get back to shopping for hats and gun holsters to match my boots, here’s a guest post:
Jamie Bernstein vs Michelle Bachmann vs HPV
Monday night Wolf Blitzer hosted the US Tea Party Republican Primary Debate on CNN. I generally enjoy watching debates while following all the ensuing snarky comments about it on twitter, but recently moved and don’t yet have cable. I tried going to the laundromat hoping they might be playing it there, but instead the laundromat TV’s were tuned to a Telemundo talk show. Defeated, I resolved to merely read about the debate after the fact rather than watching it live. Besides, what could really go on there that is all that different from previous debates?
Now, I’ve come to have a reputation as the girl who talks about vaccines all the time, so when the candidates started discussing the HPV vaccine during the debate, my twitter followers made sure I knew about it (thanks @joqatana!). Luckily for me, the video was soon up on the Internet so I could watch for myself the ensuing anti-science catastrophe.
Just take 5 minutes right now to go watch this video of Bachmann and Perry arguing over the merits of mandating the HPV vaccine for 6th grade girls.
(Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the video can be embedded.)
For those who don’t watch it, here’s what goes down:
Wolf Blitzer asks Rick Perry if the time he signed an executive order to require HPV vaccines in 11 and 12 year old girls in Texas was a mistake. Perry responds by saying that passing the policy via executive order was a mistake and he should have gone through ta legislative path instead, but that he still stands by the policy itself because the vaccine prevents cervical cancer. He also points out that Texas parents could choose to opt-out of the mandate and that all he did was add one more vaccine to the list of vaccines required for public school.
This is when things start to go downhill. Blitzer asks Michelle Bachmann for a response because she’s a mom. Seriously. He flat out states that Bachmann might have a problem with Perry’s HPV vaccine mandate because she’s a mom. Bachmann then clarifies by stating that she is a mom of three children, which I can only assume means that she has 3 times the authority to talk about vaccines. She then proceeds to state her opinion, which is basically just pure stupidity melted into a pile of words:
“To have innocent little 12-year old girls be forced to have a government injection
through an executive order is just flat out wrong.” – Michelle Bachmann
That’s right. Vaccines can take the innocence of a child! According to Bachmann, mandating the HPV vaccine for girls in public schools, even with the option to opt-out, is equivalent to an army of bureaucrats roaming from school to school raping innocent little girls with socialism-filled syringes. Thank you for that Bachmann.
And, just in case you still weren’t quite sure what her stance on vaccines is, Bachmann follows up this statement by calling Gardisil, the HPV vaccine, a “potentially dangerous drug” and bringing up the imagery of “little girls who have negative reactions” to the vaccine. She then ends her statement by comparing the HPV vaccine to the “Abortion Pill” (otherwise known as the “Morning-After Pill” for those who don’t speak Tea Party).
Perry then responds with what was likely the most rational statement in the entire debate:
“At the end of the day, this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that. And, at the end of the day, you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day I am always going to err on the side of life, and that’s what this was really all about.”
The rest of the video consists of Bachmann bringing up Big Pharma and Rick Santorum chiming in to say that HPV vaccines are not needed in public schools because it’s not a communicable disease. That’s right. According to Santorum, since HPV is spread through sexual contact and we all know that kids don’t have sex, it’s clearly not communicable in schools. Please excuse me while I go scream and hit my head against the wall a couple times. Maybe this statement will make more sense then.
Even after the debate, Bachmann not only stuck by her statements on the dangers of the HPV vaccine, but also added that the vaccine can cause mental retardation. She knows this because a mother in the audience told her after the debate that it happened to her daughter. That is all the proof you need!
This certainly isn’t the first time vaccines were brought up in a presidential debate. The last US presidential election had many candidates, including both Obama and McCain, making statements suggesting that they believe that vaccines may cause autism. However, the previous occasions always seemed more like just plain ignorance of the topic. This time, Bachmann seems to clearly be taking a page from the anti-vax crowd, framing the scientific issue of vaccine safety into an ideological debate between loving mothers who just want to make their own choices and know what’s best for their children against big pharma and their dangerous chemical toxins that they want to inject in our children with the help of socialist bureaucrats.
Rick Perry certainly does not have a record of being a friend to science or skepticism. He doesn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change, is anti-abortion, is anti-gay marriage , anti-embryonic stem cell research , believes creationism should be taught in public schools , believes that the Southwest drought can be ended merely by praying, and held that large (and un-constitutional) prayer rally in Texas last month.
However, as we skeptics know, just because a person is wrong in one way (or in this case, many ways!), doesn’t mean s/he is wrong in every way. In Monday’s debate over the merits of the HPV vaccine, Rick Perry stuck it out on the pro-science side even to boo’s from his Tea Party audience. He defended his pro-vaccine policy by reminding everyone that saving lives is more important than political ideology. It’s too bad he can’t apply this rare rationalism in other policy areas as well, but as the republican candidates increasingly turn against science as they vow for the heart of the Tea Party, I’ll take what I can get. So here’s to you, Rick Perry, a well-deserved, rare, and likely very temporary, approval from yours truly.