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Texas Gov. Perry Assailed Over HPV Vaccine Mandate in Latest GOP Presidential Debate

Texas Gov. Perry Assailed Over HPV Vaccine Mandate in Latest GOP Presidential Debate

September 13, 2011 — During Monday night's CNN/Tea Party Express debate in Tampa, Fla., the Republican presidential candidates took aim at frontrunner Texas Gov. Rick Perry over a number of domestic policy issues, including his 2007 executive order mandating that 11- and 12-year-old girls in Texas be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, NPR's "It's All Politics" reports.

Candidates Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) pressed Perry on the HPV vaccine mandate, which Perry has called a "mistake" (James, "It's All Politics," NPR, 9/13). Bachmann said, "To have innocent little 12-year old girls be forced to have to have a government injection through the force of an executive order is flat-out wrong. That should never be done. That's a violation of the liberty interest." She continued, "Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don't get a mulligan, they don't get a do-over. The parents don't get a do-over" (Joseph, "Ballot Box," The Hill, 9/12).

Bachmann also pointed out that Perry's former chief of staff had served as a lobbyist for Merck, the pharmaceutical company that makes the vaccine. She suggested that the company gave Perry thousands of dollars in campaign contributions in exchange for the mandate, according to NPR's "It's All Politics." Perry responded, "I raise about $30 million, and if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended" ("It's All Politics," NPR, 9/13). Bachmann responded, "I'm offended for all the little girls and parents that didn't have a choice" ("Ballot Box," The Hill, 9/12).

Perry argued that the decision to require the vaccine was consistent with his pro-life views. He said, "Look, I think we've made decisions in Texas. We've put a $3 billion effort in to find the cure for cancer. There are a lot of different cancers out there. Texas, I think, day in and day out is a place that protects life." He continued, "I have passed parental notification pieces of legislation. I've been the most pro-life governor in the state of Texas. And what we were all about was trying to save young people's lives in Texas" ("It's All Politics," NPR, 9/13).

Bachmann Criticizes HHS Contraception Coverage Proposal

Bachmann also criticized the Obama administration's regulations requiring insurers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods with no out-of-pocket costs, though she incorrectly implied that emergency contraception induces abortion, CNN reports.

She said, "President Obama, in a stunning, shocking level of power, now just recently told all private insurance companies, 'You must offer the morning-after abortion pill, because I said so. And it must be free of charge.' That same level coming through executive orders and through government dictates is wrong."

The HHS regulations cover a number of preventive women's health services, including contraception. CNN notes that regulations specifically exclude all abortion-inducing drugs, such as mifepristone. According to NIH, EC does not induce abortion.

CNN also reports that the drugs would not necessarily be free for individuals with private insurance, as they would still need to pay premiums (CNN, 9/13).