EDITORIAL: Texas Governor Rick Perry's Vaccine Decision a Killer

HNN Staff
Gov. Rick Perry
Gov. Rick Perry

Social conservatives constitute a key constituency in many states for Republican Presidential candidates, particularly during primary season.  That's one reason Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) did nearly as well as Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) in Saturday's Iowa Straw Poll: he stressed his social conservative credentials as a career pro-life advocate.

Indeed, Iowa has always rewarded the candidates who are most socially conservative, like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee an election cycle ago.

But Iowa is not alone.  Social conservatives are unavoidable in the traditional Bible belt states throughout the south, along with midwestern states like Oklahoma and Kansas.  Before the campaign is over, even formerly pro-choice Mitt Romney will be heard reassuring people such voters that he, too, is one of them.

However, social conservatives are not one-issue voters at all.  While the pro-life issue is their bread and butter, social conservatives have developed well-considered concerns about subjects as complex as medical ethics, the strong role of the family in rearing children, religious freedom, and the encroachment of government on God-given individual rights.  That's why you'll see some of the same folks at both social conservative events and Tea Party gatherings.  Both groups are gripped by a concern for the individual and their rights.

This concern for individual rights may make Texas Governor Rick Perry's a serious uphill climb with principled social conservatives and perhaps many Tea Party folks, as well.  While Governors oftentimes are seen in a favorable light in Presidential races for their chief executive experience, that public service can be a two-edged sword if a Governor is seen to have not handled his power well.

The Christian Broadcasting Network's Chief Political Correspondent, David Brody, recently highlighted on his blog a time when Perry made a decision in Texas that not only undermined his overall reputation but particularly hurt himself with social conservatives. The issue was Perry's mandating a vaccine for young girls called Gardasil.  The vaccine has been linked to 32 unconfirmed deaths and shows higher incidences of fainting and blood clots than other vaccines. Brody writes:

In 2007, Perry signed an Executive Order that would have required teenage girls in Texas to be immunized against Human papillomavirus, (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted sexual disease. It is also a known cause of cervical cancer.

The Texas Legislature later overturned his Executive Order. At the time, social conservatives were NOT happy, saying that the vaccine would definitely encourage sexual promiscuity among teenagers. Perry maintains that the shot is important in potentially preventing cervical cancer...

Perry also might run into trouble with conservatives who at the time felt that Perry’s Executive Order was really an invasion by the state into the personal health decisions of parents.

After all, Perry made this HPV vaccine mandatory even though parents did have the option to opt out (rather than the option to opt in). It sure doesn’t sound much like a Tea Party move at all by a guy who loves to claim the Tea Party mantle. He could get beat up on this, too.

It makes The Brody File wonder the following: Will Rick Perry really have much credibility to go after Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare plan since Perry himself was calling for an individual mandate on his HPV vaccine?

David Brody writes for one of the most watched news organizations nationally for social conservatives.  He's absolutely correct that Governor Perry is vulnerable on this issue, and not just from social conservatives and Tea Party members.  Those who worry about government corruption may also have to chime in on this one, because Governor Perry received donations from Merck, the pharmaceutical company who happened to have this, the only FDA approved HPV vaccine.  At a cost of $360 per vaccine, someone was making a lot of money--at the expense of Texans' freedom to decide whether they needed the controversial vaccine or not.

Governor Rick Perry may seem to some a conservative messiah, but frankly, the GOP field already has several top-flight conservative leaders who don't have this extraordinary baggage.  We predict Perry's candidacy won't make it to the end of the year.  Smart Republican voters know that the Democrats would have a field day with Perry on issues like this one.



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