As Molly Ivins might write, Well, dang! Guv’ner Rick “Goodhair” Perry defied religious conservatives in the Texas legislature by signing an order requiring Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against HPV (that’s warts, y’all—and the virus linked to cervical cancer). The Guv’ner is a card-carrying member of the religious right, so how can this be? Did he have a moment of reasonableness, plain and simple? Perhaps. Governor Goodhair compared the HPV vaccine to the polio vaccine, and called it “an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer.”
But this is Texas, folks! They do not trust long words like “reasonableness.”* They do trust big multinational corporations. In this case, that would be Merck, the maker of the new vaccine. Merck recently upped its spending on lobbying in Texas, partly through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country. Now let’s play Connect the Dots: One of Merck’s three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff. Perry’s current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Goodhair also pocketed $6,000 in campaign contributions from Merck’s political action committee last cycle.
But who cares? Perry, unlike other state officials, put his money where his mouth is. He is requiring state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. His order also requires Medicaid to offer the vaccine to women ages 19 to 21.
*Before you accuse your blogger of destructive stereotyping, you should know that I lived in Texas for 6 years.