Most of us have memories of childhood vaccinations for everything from smallpox to measles to polio. They prevented deadly diseases spread by casual contact.
But now our lawmakers are poised to force 11-year-old girls to take a vaccine for a disease that is not spread by casual contact—unless you consider sexual relations casual.
At first glance, arguments in favor of vaccinating girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV) seem strong. HPV infections are spread through sexual contact, and virtually all cervical cancers arise from HPV infections. A vaccine called Gardasil, made by the Merck pharmaceutical company, is effective at preventing diseases from two HPV strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers.
So why not vaccinate girls against HPV? The reasons are both practical and moral.
As Michael Fumento notes in the Weekly Standard, both the incidence and the death rate for cervical cancer are dropping in the United States, thanks to heightened awareness and to the Pap smear. In fact, in 1999 the Centers for Disease Control told Congress that cervical cancer is now "nearly 100 percent preventable."
So why the rush to make Gardasil mandatory for students?
Partly, it is because Gardasil has a strong competitor, and perhaps it is because Merck and other drug companies exert significant influence on elected officials and advocacy groups. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order mandating the HPV vaccine for all sixth-grade girls. In Virginia, the legislature recently voted overwhelmingly to require mandatory vaccination for all sixth-grade girls.
I am delighted to say that in Texas last week the House voted overwhelmingly to overturn Perry's executive order. And much of America's medical community has come out against mandating HPV vaccinations. But even if they had not, parents ought to object to the moral message a mandatory HPV vaccination sends.
For one thing, it overrides parental authority. For another, it may encourage promiscuity—as with birth control pills and abortion, it gives girls one less reason to tell boys "no."
State battles over Gardasil are, on one level, the latest battle over whose view of sexuality is going to prevail. The secular view is that, of course, kids will engage in sex, and the government's job is to keep them from getting pregnant and contracting diseases. By contrast, the Judeo-Christian ethic teaches that sex ought to be reserved for marriage.
Modern parents must protect their daughters, not only from teenage boys who think of little else but sex, but also against drug companies, lawmakers, and activist groups that want to make money, win campaigns, and teach our kids the wrong message, even if their intentions are well-meaning.
We all need to find out if our own states are among those considering mandating Gardasil. We must also teach our daughters how to avoid acquiring HPV infections in the first place: chastity before marriage, and monogamy afterwards.
When it comes to premarital sex, it's not just diseases they have to worry about, but broken hearts and lives—and there is no vaccine against that.
From BreakPoint®, March 19, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries