February 05, 2007
More pushback on Perry's vaccine order

Various Republican legislators have complained to Governor Perry about his Executive Suggestion that girls be vaccinated against HPV.

State Sen. Jane Nelson, chairwoman of the Senate's health and human services committee, said lawmakers should have been allowed to hear from doctors, scientists and patients before the state implemented such a sweeping mandate.

"This is not an emergency," said Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound. "It needs to be discussed and debated."

Perry ordered the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules requiring the Merck & Co.'s new Gardasil vaccine for girls entering sixth grade as of September 2008. The vaccine protects girls against strains of the human pappilomavirus that cause most cases of cervical cancer.

The Legislature has no authority to repeal Perry's executive order. Nelson said she plans to ask Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion on the legality of Perry's order.

A Perry spokeswoman did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Nelson was joined by Republican state Reps. Jim Keffer of Eastland and Dan Flynn of Canton, all of whom said their phone lines were filled with parents complaining about Perry's order Friday. They said many of their colleagues had expressed similar concerns.

Sen. Nelson's objection is essentially the same as the one raised by Grits in the comments to my earlier post, and I admit it has some resonance for me. Unfortunately, I feel to a certain extent that this ship has already sailed, in that Governor Perry has done quite a bit in his six years in office to expand and consolidate his powers, much of which with the tacit support of folks like Sen. Nelson. Maybe this time he has finally stepped over a line. If so, I'll just note how different things can look when it's one's own ox being gored.

Still, it is a valid concern, and though I support this particular order I'm glad that Sen. Nelson brought it up. I don't doubt for a second that the next order Perry issues will be one that will infuriate me, so all things considered it would be better if we went through the proper channels instead of breaking precedents. I just don't think that he has any intention of pulling back and throwing his support behind Rep. Jessica Farrar's bill to do the same thing.

I also expect that the narrative of this controversy will continue to be about the idiotic "this condones premarital sex!" objection, and about how Perry has benefited financially from Merck. The former is utterly contemptible but makes for good copy, while the latter is almost quaint. I mean, Rick Perry wouldn't give you a used Kleenex for the lousy six grand he got from Merck. It costs a lot more than that to curry his favors. Our Governor may be many thing, but he ain't cheap.

Other views: from Eye on Williamson, Pandagon and Pandagon again, Broadsheet, Dig Deeper Texas, and Burnt Orange Report, which examines the question of precedent more closely.

UPDATE: Whatever you think of this order, you have to admit it's a little weird hearing words like this emanate from Governor Perry:

"Never before have we had an opportunity to prevent cancer with a simple vaccine. While I understand the concerns expressed by some, I stand firmly on the side of protecting life. The HPV vaccine does not promote sex, it protects women's health. In the past, young women who have abstained from sex until marriage have contracted HPV from their husbands and faced the difficult task of defeating cervical cancer. This vaccine prevents that from happening.

"Providing the HPV vaccine doesn't promote sexual promiscuity anymore than providing the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it claiming it would encourage smoking?

"Finally, parents need to know that they have the final decision about whether or not their daughter is vaccinated. I am a strong believer in protecting parental rights, which is why this executive order allows them to opt out."

I swear, I didn't see any dogs and cats lying together on my drive home, but maybe I just wasn't looking in the right places.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 05, 2007 to Show Business for Ugly People

OK, let it be noted that Jane Nelson, Jim Keffer, and Dan Flynn, and the parents in their district, are apparently grit-sucking inbred freaks who enjoy watching women die. Good to know.

I haven't to my knowledge been in Flower Mound, Eastland, or Canton, but I'll be careful if I ever do, since the stupid and evil are allowed to walk the streets.

Posted by: Greg Morrow on February 5, 2007 12:59 PM

Puh-leez. Six grand? The milk people couldn't buy John Connally for ten grand and that was more than 30 years ago. I can't imagine Perry being influenced so cheaply.

Posted by: Ginger Stampley on February 5, 2007 2:25 PM

I truly enjoyed reading the comments of Cathy Adams (Texas Eagle Forum), a long-time right-wing supporter of Governor Perry, who has now declared that he is being bought off by political contributors. Welcome to political reality, Cathy! And while I agree that his executive order may be a bit high-handed, I'm noticing that most of the opposition is coming from the Religious Right, people who apparently have a greater fear of sex than of cancer.

Posted by: Dennis on February 5, 2007 2:29 PM

Yes, Greg, me, Flynn, Keffer and Jane Nelson are just like this - II - and our common bond is indeed that we are "inbred freaks" who like to "watch women die." Sometimes it's nice to set up lawn chairs together inside emergency rooms on the weekends just hoping to get lucky.

So yes, granted, everyone who disagrees with you is a first rate asshole - unworthy even to utter an opinion in your presence. But answer me this: Do you recognize no cost benefit analysis whatsoever? What if paying for this vaccine means the Lege must stop paying for HIV drugs because there's only so much money? Would you still be so pompous and holier than thou?

And to Dennis, I'm not part of the religious right and I think the way this was done sets a terrible public policy precedent that I don't support. But then, don't listen to me, I'm just a grit-sucking inbred freak. best,

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast on February 5, 2007 6:27 PM

Of course the Republicans wanted this to be debated and discussed. How noble of them. That's because they could kill it that way. And, then only insured people and parents with money could afford to protect their daughters from cervical cancer. What kills me is that some Democrats are whining about how it should have "gone through the process" and debated.

This is one fight we don't have to fight, so let's be grateful and move on.

Posted by: muse on February 5, 2007 6:43 PM

@ muse, I ask you the same question I did Greg: "Do you recognize no cost benefit analysis whatsoever? What if paying for this vaccine means the Lege must stop paying for HIV drugs because there's only so much money?" Or what if it means CHIP funds can't be restored?

The legislative budget process provides a venue to make such prioritizing judgments when they come into conflict. This is a terrible precedent. If you grant Perry the power to spend hundreds of millions by executive order, I'll pretty much guarantee you won't like the content of the next several that come down the pike, but you'll have forfeited the right to claim the process should be more participatory. That's a mistake, IMO, no matter what party you're in.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast on February 6, 2007 8:53 AM

Grits, do you believe that the Republicans who are objecting are doing so because of concerns about executive power, the budget, or the impact on other health care issues?

'Cause I don't. They're squawking about "hearing from parents", and that means vaccination-phobes (who are grit-sucking inbred morons who like watching children die) or people who've bought into the FRC line that the vaccine promotes sex (and are therefore anti-feminist credulous inbred morons who think that women should be punished for Eve's crime).

I'll grant you that doing this through an executive order raises questions about executive power, and there may be questions about budget and other health care priorities, but those are largely separate issues from whether or not kids should be vaccinated.

(As for where I stand on those issues: The executive should not have the power, and Texas needs to spend more, a lot more, a lot, lot more, on public health.)

Posted by: Greg Morrow on February 6, 2007 11:00 AM