Today's Washington Post has an op-ed piece by Peter Sprigg, billed as "vice president for policy at the Family Research Council." Although the title is Pro-Family, Pro-Vaccine
, the point to it is that Gardasil must not
be made a mandatory vaccine because it's so much more important that fundamentalists still be able to threaten their daughters with death before dishonor.
It starts off so promisingly. Honestly, the article says all the things that you'd expect it to say if it really was pro-science and pro-health: Various strains of HPV are sexually transmitted and produce infections that are responsible for virtually all cases of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer kills 10 American women a day. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already found the vaccine to be both safe and effective. Development of a vaccine for HPV is a tremendous medical achievement and a boon to public health. It holds the potential to protect the health of millions and preserve the lives of thousands of American women each year.
Having established that a proper pro-life position is to be against something that kills women (although his numbers are a bit low; the previous statistic I saw was 4,000 American women a year, which is closer to 11 women a day), he goes on to admit that yes, not supporting the vaccine would be political suicide. After extensive study, we and other pro-family groups have concluded that the clear benefits of developing an HPV vaccine outweigh any potential costs. The groups welcoming it include leading conservative pro-family organizations such as the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America and the Medical Institute for Sexual Health.
The rot starts in at the very next paragraph. With tortured politeness and an air of clearing the public record of liberal lies, Mr. Sprigg then announces There are, however, two important concerns that must be emphasized. The first is the accurate communication to the public of what the vaccine does, and does not, prevent. Gardasil is being touted by its manufacturer, Merck, as the world's first vaccine to prevent cancer.
And, Mr. Sprigg hastens to inform us, it doesn't. It merely targets four strains of HPV, and those four strains account for merely 70% of the cases of cervical cancer, so you see, Gardasil doesn't REALLY cure cancer.
Or, as he puts it, But 70 percent is not the same as eradication.
Which, no it isn't. They never said it eradicated all cancers, but Mr. Sprigg makes it sound like he's airing some deep dark lie when he says The public must understand the undisputed scientific facts regarding the HPV vaccine. Most important, it is only "100 percent effective" against the strains of HPV it targets, leaving 30 percent of cervical cancer cases untouched. This means that even if every person in the country were vaccinated, women would still need to get yearly Pap tests. And, tragically, some women will still die even when all precautionary measures are taken against cervical cancer. Claims that "the new vaccine, when used appropriately, will virtually eliminate cervical cancer" are simply false.
They never said "virtually eliminate." They did say that they would save many lives. You know, like 70% of them. Close to three-quarters of the women now afflicted. It is simply true that Gardasil is enough to save the lives of 7 of those 10(.958) women who die every day without the vaccine. Seven lives a day; 2555 lives a year in America alone. I'm sorry that's not good enough for you Mr. Sprigg. It beats the hell out of the status quo, though,
especially for those two-and-a-half-thousand women.
The second "concern" is, of course, exactly what I've been sounding the clarion call to expect -that
parents' rights include the "right" to play dice with their daughter's lives. In other words, they shouldn't be "forced" to protect their daughters from dying. But before he goes there, Sprigg throws pretty bright sparkles in the air to confuse the issue. If use of the vaccine becomes part of the recommended standard of care, and if the federal Vaccines for Children program pays for vaccination of those children whose families cannot afford it, then vaccination should become widespread without school mandates.
Mr. Sprigg soothes. In other words, there is no problem here... so why is he bringing it up?
Because there's a problem here.
The real battle ground is the schoolyard, and just as cancer prevention is being reframed as being "about" promiscuity, death prevention is being reframed as a schooling issue. Namely, that Gardasil (although it protects against a current health issue and against a future fatal one) doesn't cover anything important enough that it should be made one of the mandatory vaccines required for public school attendance. (Why this is a particular battleground for the same contingent that is also currently arguing that their children should be homeschooled is bending my brain a bit.)
Unfortunately for Mr. Sprigg, the real agenda comes out quickly enough. Pro-family groups are united in believing that parents should decide what is best for their children
. And if those parents decide that it's best that 70% of their daughters should be at risk for dying, well then, that's more important than the lives of the little whores anyway.
And they would be little whores by definition if they catch cooter cancer, despite Mr. Sprigg's nth-hour, last paragraph, next-to-last sentence quiet admission that even someone who practices abstinence and fidelity could be exposed to HPV through sexual assault or marriage to an infected partner
. Mr. Sprigg wants us to think that we're discussing health issues, school issues, even civil rights (although never from the perspective of minor females who, one is left to assume, don't actually have civil rights), but what we're REALLY discussing is sex. Evil, evil sex.But in this case the strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer are transmitted only through sexual contact. ... The scientific advance that the HPV vaccine represents should not distract us from the primary truth that abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage constitute the single best formula for sexual health.
Mr. Sprigg, you're so good at complaining about the statistics regarding Gardasil coverage, would you like to cite the statistics regarding the abstinence pledges in delaying, much less denying, premarital sex? No? I suppose that after having bitched that 70% protective coverage isn't good enough that it might be a tad embarrassing to have to admit that independent studies show that abstinence courses not only fail over 90% of the time, but there are also corresponding statistics for the rise of STDs and teen pregnancies.The paternalistic view that just because something is good for you the government should force you to do it is not one that most American families would welcome,
Mr. Sprigg grandly proclaims. So I must ask you, Mr. Sprigg - what is the opinion of 70% of the daughters of those families? What do they welcome? Because nobody is asking you, the adult male. You're not at risk of death. Unlike you, we are actually thinking about saving your daughter's lives. Unlike you, we are not willing to silently risk them rather than allow you to gamble with them.If you're willing to publicly admit that "even someone who practices abstinence and fidelity could be exposed to HPV" then you have already admitted that your program CANNOT save girls' lives.
Game over. You've just undermined your own argument.
There is only one pro-life decision that can be made by American families, Mr. Sprigg, and that is to save 2555 lives in America every year and not to cross your fingers that your daughters will cross their legs and not become one of the 10-a-day statistic.