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Cancer, schmancer

July 5, 2006

Cervical cancer kills 200,000 women worldwide every year. So why are religious conservatives trying to keep girls from a potentially lifesaving vaccine?

Answer: it could make them slutty. Oh, how I wish I was joking.

The vaccine, which prevents HPV infection (the leading cause of cervical cancer), is some of the best health news for women in a while. But because the vaccine has to do with The Sex, abstinence proponents and other conservative nutties are bristling.

Leslie Unruh, of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse, says: “If you don’t want to suffer these diseases, you need to abstain … I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100% percent preventable with proper sexual behavior.” (Only whores get cancer, didn’t ya know?)

Katha Pollitt reported last year that Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council said that “giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful…because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”

I know, the logic is baffling.

Uber-conservative organization Focus on the Family even succeeded in getting one of their own on the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Dr. Reginald Finger. This is someone who said that if “people begin to market the [HPV] vaccine or tout the vaccine that this makes adolescent sex safer, then that would undermine the abstinence-only message.”

Cancer, schmancer. Better that teens pretend to be abstinent than actually have medically accurate information and health services that could save their life.

Luckily, the panel recently recommend that the vaccine be mandatory girls age 11-12 before they enter school But the fight isn’t over–it’s up to each state whether or not to put the ACIP’s recommendations into practice, and the likes of Focus on the Family and the National Abstinence Clearinghouse aren’t about to give up so easily. So keep your fingers crossed and your ears open, you’re sure to hear more on this issue in the coming months. And it’s too important to let slide by.

Related: Another loss for the better-cancer-than-sex crowd is a new study that says consistent condom use reduces women’s HPV risk. But somehow I doubt that this info will make its way to kids.

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