Jesus Must Be So Proud Of Texas's Alarming Cervical Cancer Rates
Back in 2007, Rick Perry, then governor of Texas, actually tried to do a good thing. Shocking, I know, but true. He signed an executive order requiring all girls entering the sixth grade to get the HPV vaccine — the time frame when the vaccine is most likely to be effective.
That never happened, because the anti-vaxxers did how the anti-vaxxers do, and they joined forces with the evangelicals, who knew that if there was no risk of dying of cervical cancer to scare them, girls would slut around with impunity. So they worked together to convince a majority of the state's lawmakers, Democrat and Republican, to override the governor.
At the time the vaccine was released, there was a whole lot of evangelical opposition to it on the grounds that it was a promiscuity-inducing vaccine. Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council famously said when the vaccine was finally approved, "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV. Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex."
These were the heady days of the abstinence-only movement, when teachers were comparing sexually active women to buckets of spit and licked candy bars, and young women across the country were dragged to purity balls wherein they promised their dads that they would remain virgins until marriage. It was pretty gross, actually.
Of course, in an attempt to seem reasonable and secular about things, many of these groups claimed that they weren't necessarily opposed to the vaccine in and of itself, they just wanted to leave that decision to the parents.
And so it was! Texas decided that parents knew what was best for their own children. And how has this worked out for them?
Now, Texas has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the nation. According to the Texas Tribune, the CDC and National Cancer Institute revealed that in 2016, the age-adjusted rate of new cervical cancer cases for women in the state was 9.2 per 100,000. Only four other states — New Mexico, Alabama, Florida and Kentucky, had higher rates of the deadly disease.
This has likely left a whole lot of adult women in Texas wondering Gee! If my parents knew best, why do I have cervical cancer now?
Given these rates, it sure doesn't seem as though denying young women this vaccine made them any less likely to have sex than they would have otherwise. In fact, study after study has shown that the HPV vaccine does literally nothing to increase "teen promiscuity" and may even have the effect of increasing safer sex among teenagers.
Comparatively, Australia — which started giving out the vaccine for free to school children around the same time Perry's mandate failed — is on track to eliminating cervical cancer.
So maybe, just maybe, parents don't always actually know best.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Previously, she was a Senior Staff Writer at Death & Taxes, and Assistant Editor at The Frisky (RIP). Currently, she writes for Wonkette, Friendly Atheist, Quartz and other sites. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse