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The New HPV Vaccine: Educate, Don’t Mandate [Exclusive]

April 18, 2007

hallkevin.jpg By Kevin A. Hall

The self-proclaimed champions of choice are at it again. This time the folks at Planned Parenthood have joined forces with fans of big government to impose their “choice” on you and your daughter. After being thwarted in their attempts to pass a compulsory child vaccination law for what is a sexually transmitted disease, they have finally relented – but only a little. They have reluctantly accepted an “opt-out” amendment to House Bill 3136.

H. 3136 would deny your eleven year-old daughter a seat in South Carolina’s public and private schools unless she is first inoculated with a new vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV), a disease transmitted only by sexual contact. Unfortunately, the abortion lobby is joined this time by some well-intentioned public policy advocates whose preference for mandatory vaccination of schoolgirls raises the obvious issue: Who should make medical decisions for South Carolina’s childrenparents or politicians? In all but the most extreme situations – and this is not one of them – these decisions are best left to parents.

Make no mistake. The advent of a vaccine for HPV is a major medical breakthrough. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 3,700 women die annually from cervical cancer, which is usually caused by HPV. Because the vaccine has the potential to save thousands of lives each year, it is cause for celebration indeed. We can only hope that the vaccine will be made widely available to women in our state. How, then, you might ask, could anyone oppose mandatory vaccines for schoolgirls?

To start with, they are just that – mandatory. Anytime government requires parents to administer a drug to their child, there should be a compelling public health risk at stake. There is an essential difference, however, between chickenpox or measles (for which school immunization is reasonably required) and HPV, especially when you consider the risk of transmission in the classroom. A child can contract chickenpox or measles by breathing the same air as her classmates, whereas sexual contact is required for the spread of HPV. School immunization requirements came about to protect children from outbreaks of contagious diseases that could be spread in the classroom, not to compel vaccination. Mandating vaccination for a sexually transmitted disease, as opposed to a disease spread by casual contact, would be a serious departure from past public health practice. Assuming that sex is not permitted in our state’s classrooms – a reasonable assumption, I hope – mandatory HPV vaccination does not make our schools safer.

Why does H. 3136 target eleven year-old girls for mandatory vaccination? Fortunately, current state law provides that girls can not consent to sexual intercourse unless they are at least 16 years of age. Simply put, it is illegal for girls under the age of consent to have sex, and if they do, the man involved risks prosecution for statutory rape, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. When you consider that many eleven year-old girls have not even reached puberty, it is not unreasonable for their parents to conclude that a discussion of HPV and its sexual transmission are better left for another day. Parents, not the government, should be the primary educators of their children when it comes to sex and the attendant health consequences. While the recent amendment to H. 3136 gives parents more of a say in health care decisions for their daughters, it still encroaches unnecessarily into a parent’s right and responsibility to do what is best for their child.

The State has an important role in educating parents about the potential benefits of the new HPV vaccine, but the State should not substitute its judgment for South Carolina’s parents. House Bill 3136 would turn the historic rationale for school immunization requirements on its head without making our schools any safer. Hopefully, our General Assembly and our Governor will reject the call for mandatory HPV vaccinations for South Carolina’s schoolgirls.

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Mr. Hall is an attorney in private practice in Columbia. He and his wife are the parents of four school-age children.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. John permalink
    April 18, 2007 8:37 PM

    I’m no abortion fan whatsoever, so don’t put that on me … but what you are describing (opting out) sounds like a fair choice to me.

    Given the predominance of under age sex in our society, like it or not, getting rid of a type of cancer seems to be a good thing, not a bad thing.

    I totally agree that parents could logically decide to opt out – which is why the part of the statute is necessary. But what’s wrong with default protection, if it has no practical harms?

  2. Paul permalink
    April 18, 2007 9:42 PM

    Wait a minute, so now, all of sudden, it’s about choice and not mandates. Where are you on the House passed mandate that a person that becomes pregnant through rape or incest MUST VIEW an ultrasound ? Stop legislating morality please, and like you say let parents make the choice.

  3. Nathan Williams permalink
    April 18, 2007 9:46 PM

    You are “right on”. I don’t know Paul Says – but he is way off base. Everyone can have their opinion – right or wrong, I guess. Keep up the good work.

    (Do not post. Mr. Paul would not understand.)

  4. Sharon Overholt permalink
    April 19, 2007 2:13 AM

    This is dum, not letting a girl go to school b/c she doesn’t have this shot. Most girls are even thinking about sex at this age anyways

  5. Steve permalink
    April 19, 2007 12:06 PM

    The vaccine only innoculates from about 30% of the types of HPV causing viruses. So, we are going to violate a parent’s right, violate a young girl’s bodily integrity by injecting her with something that may innoculate her from a small percentage of HPV viruses with a drug that has had NO clinical studies on school age girls when she is not likely even engaging in the activity required to get the virus?

    Where is the crowd clamoring to limit government intrusiveness that sprung up during the ultrasound bill debate? It is okay to use the force of government to put an unproven drug into our daughters, but it’s not okay to require a doctor to show an ultrasound(the bill did not require the woman to view it, Paul) to a woman seeking an invasive surgical procedure that would terminate the life of a separate human being within her?

    “and they shall call good evil and evil good…”

  6. Tina permalink
    April 19, 2007 12:45 PM

    Paul says: Stop legislating morality please, and like you say let parents make the choice.

    Tina says: In order to make a choice you must know what is in front of you. How can you come to a fork in the road without evidence and facts? Since he brought up the issue of abortion, I truly believe if I had been given that CHOICE to view my baby through an ultrasound image, I would have not gone through with the abortion. I was very young and was convince that it was just a blob of blood tissue and not a HUMAN LIFE, I since then know better. Our government was created and design to protect our country, our citizens, and our freedom. Where was that freedom and choice when I needed it? Any vaccination that is not air borne should be a choice for parents to make for their child(ren). Who knows their child better than a parent. Parents rights are being stripped away and a child’s innocence raped through society. We are not only to protect our children from wolves in sheep clothing, but we are to support those that are in the position and have the authority to defend and fight for for thier rights and lives. I speak for myself and my family and we APPLAUD LEGISLATING MORALITY! I would like to thank Mr. Kevin A. Hall for his commitment and disciplne in keeping us inform and protecting not only his children but ours.

  7. Paul permalink
    April 19, 2007 5:33 PM

    Steve,

    I realized the Senate has changed the bill since, but here is the language from the House passed bill

    “The images viewed by the physician or certified technician to verify the gestational age must be reproduced and reviewed with the mother by the physician or allied health professional working in conjunction with the physician prior to the woman giving informed consent to having an abortion procedure performed.”

    As a parent, I feel that we know what is best for our children, but I agree with you Tina that we need information to make better informed choices. However, I just wonder why we leave some choices to parents and legislate the others.

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