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The Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA) has been running an attack ad on Governor Rick Perry with this appalling lie:

"Now, imagine a governor who wanted to take a needle, fill it with a controversial drug for sexually-transmitted diseases, and inject it in every 11 and 12-year-old girl in Texas."

Ha! Aside from making me snort at the image of Rick Perry driving around luring Texas’s little girls over one by one and then giving them all Gardasil, this ad is really outrageous. It’s so untrue that it was featured on an NPR story about untrue ads. It absurdly links Rick Perry, sex, children, and needles in the voter’s mind and shows a total disregard for the truth of the matter.

Here’s what the Governor’s executive order really did:

1) Added Gardasil to the list of vaccines required of public school students, mandating that all girls entering the 6th grade receive the vaccine
2) Ordered state health authorities to make the vaccine free to those who could not afford it
3) Ordered Medicaid to offer Gardasil to women ages 19-21
4) Provided an opt-out for those who did not want their daughters to receive Gardasil.

The Order expresses the Perry’s point of view that making Gardasil available to women will save lives:

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?

"Protecting life" —  that in the end is the idea behind all vaccine mandates: that some medications are so vital to public health that the state must do what it can to ensure that all its children receive them. 

What the Democratic Governors have done here is pretty low-down. They’re lying about what the governor’s order did. Worse, they’re propagating myths and playing on false fears about the HPV vaccine.  

Sure, Gardasil is controversial – a largely manufactured controversy,  rooted in medically baseless claims and right-wing disapproval of female sexuality. And this is not to minimize the reproductive-justice-related concerns that have arisen about the drug and its marketing since it became available.

But in the end the vaccine itself saves lives. Distortions and lies about it do not serve to improve public health. At what cost this election, DGA?

I mean, we’re dealing with a Republican who has governed Texas for ten years, here. You’d think the Dems could find more than enough material based on Perry’s record, without taking a dishonest tack that ultimately is damaging to women’s health.  

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