Texas Gov. Urged Against Cancer Order
Monday, February 5, 2007; 11:04 PM
AUSTIN, Texas -- Several key Republicans urged Gov. Rick Perry on Monday to rescind his executive order making Texas the first state to require girls to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
Lawmakers should have been allowed to hear from doctors, scientists and patients before the state implemented such a sweeping mandate, said state Sen. Jane Nelson, chairwoman of the health and human services committee.
"This is not an emergency," said Nelson, adding that she plans to ask Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion on the legality of Perry's order. "It needs to be discussed and debated."
Three other Republican lawmakers filed bills that would override the mandate, and several others were working on similar legislation.
Perry defended his decision, saying his fellow conservatives were wrong to worry that mandating the vaccine will trample parents' rights and promote premarital sex.
"Providing the HPV vaccine doesn't promote sexual promiscuity any more than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use," Perry said in a statement. "If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?"
Perry has ordered the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules requiring Merck & Co.'s new Gardasil vaccine for girls entering the sixth grade as of September 2008. The vaccine protects girls against strains of the human papillomavirus that cause most cases of cervical cancer.
Texas allows parents to opt out of inoculations by filing an affidavit objecting to the vaccine on religious or philosophical reasons, but critics say the order still interferes with parental rights.
"I don't think the government should ever presume to know better than the parents what to do with children," Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said.
Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls ages 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. And he ordered Medicaid to offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21.