South Carolina won’t give parents info on life-saving, cancer-preventing HPV vaccine

fuck cancerBad news for people who want to prevent cancer--which, surprisingly enough, is not all of us.

The South Carolina House failed Tuesday to override Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of a bill intended to provide information on and access to a free vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted, cancer-causing virus.

The House’s 54-47 vote killed the bill, which called for informational brochures on the vaccine for human papillomavirus, known as HPV, to be provided to parents of sixth-graders. Parents could choose to have their seventh-graders receive the vaccine. The bill specifies those provisions depend on funding.

As Rachel Maddow reported, Gov. Haley actually cosponsored a similar bill when she was in the legislature. But she now apparently thinks that “health agencies don’t need to tell parents what to do.” In fact, the bill does not make the vaccine mandatory at all. And I’m not really sure what she means by “health agencies don’t need to tell parents what to do.” In my opinion, telling parents that they can ensure their kids don’t die from cervical cancer by getting a few shots is pretty much exactly what our health agencies should be doing.

But hey–what do I know? Before the vote on Tuesday, however, lawmakers heard from someone who does know what the fuck they’re talking about. Dr. Andrew Kraft noted that South Carolina ranks ninth for cervical cancer deaths and fifth in deaths from head and neck cancers nationwide. African-American women are three times more likely to die cervical cancer than are white women. And even though the FDA recommends it be given to them, less than 20 percent of young people in South Carolina receive the vaccine.

While Gov. Haley mostly couched her opposition in the language of “unfunded mandates,” some conservative HPV vaccine foes are more upfront about their concerns. Take, for example, the Catholic bishops in Calgary, Canada. When Alberta began offering school-aged girls the opportunity to be vaccinated for free, school officials in Calgary sent students home with a letter from the bishops saying the vaccine “sends a message that early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses “protection,” and warning parents to protect their children from “counterproductive influences and potential abuse.”

In short, your 12-year-old girls will become sluts once the risk of cervical cancer is removed. Because that’s totally how that works. As one health expert, who is part of a coalition pushing the school district to offer the vaccine, noted, “What we see anecdotally is that the children don’t jump into bed, they go out for recess.”

I honestly can’t imagine how frustrating this bullshit must be for doctors and public health experts–just writing about it makes my cervix itch. As Dr. Andrew Kraft said, “Can we prevent cancer? The answer is yes!” Or, rather, it would be–if politics didn’t keep getting in the way.

I had HPV and lived to tell the tale
Fight sex-negativity by tweeting that you’ve had HPV tomorrow
CDC committee recommends HPV vaccine for girls age 11-12… but the battle’s not over
New study: HPV vaccine makes girls think about sexual risks

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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