Forced Vaccination And Individual Liberty

Over the weekend, Texas Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order that will require all girls entering the sixth grade beginning in 2008 to receive the new vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer:

AUSTIN, Texas — Some conservatives and parents’ rights groups worry that requiring girls to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way they raise their children.

By using an executive order that bypassed the Legislature, Republican Gov. Rick Perry _ himself a conservative _ on Friday avoided such opposition, making Texas the first state to mandate that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the virus.

Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade will have to receive Gardasil, Merck & Co.‘s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. In addition, he ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21.

Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” he said.

Opponents say Perry should have let the Legislature decide whether to impose a mandate.

“He’s circumventing the will of the people,” said Dawn Richardson, president of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education, a citizens group that fought for the right to opt out of other vaccine requirements. “There are bills filed. There’s no emergency except in the boardrooms of Merck, where this is failing to gain the support that they had expected.”

I’ve written about the issue of forced vaccination in the past, but the idea that the state should not force parents to innoculate their children against their will seems even stronger when you’re dealing with a virus like HPV, which cannot be considered a public health threat in the same way that, say, the influenza virus can. We don’t require people to get flu shots every year, why should we require parents to vaccinate their 11 year old girls against a disease that can only be spread through intimite sexual contact ?

I can’t think of a good reason either.

Unfortunately, there seems to be some degree of momentum behind the idea of mandatory HPV vaccination. The Virginia General Assembly, for example, is currently considering a bill that would impose bascially the same requirement as Governor Perry’s order. And nobody seems to be stopping and asking whether this is a good idea.

Related Posts:

Should The Government Force You To Vaccinate Your Children ?
More Thoughts On Forced Vaccination
The Case Against Forced Vaccination

  • VRB

    It can be transmitted with less than intimate contact and of course 11 year olds don’t have sex.
    I am not saying that parents should be forced to vaccinate, but don’t put the blinder’s on about children’s sexuallity.

  • Adam Selene

    I think the real issue here is who is in charge of our bodies? Us, or the government.

  • Stephen Littau

    Most 11 year olds probably don’t have sex VRB, but some 11 year olds do get raped; therefore there is a possibility that 11 year olds could contract HPV.

  • Brad Warbiany


    Does that troubling fact cause you to favor mandatory vaccination?

  • M.J. Taylor

    Adam has the right question. And the answer is not the “government.”

    That the Gov. (corrupt politician) Perry used a slight of hand to bypass the public is completely within character. He only seems to do things that make his ‘good’ buddies richer.

    What really needs to be investigated is how much money Perry and cronies received (directly or indirectly) from Merck or its major stockholders.

    Nice to find another libertarian,

    M.J. Taylor

  • Stephen Littau

    To be honest Brad, I am not sure. I tend to be against the state being involved in such matters. I do understand the reasoning behind forced vaccinations though; I was mainly pointing out to VRB the rape possibility because I think that many people fail to consider such a possibility.

    I think that educating parents about the reasons why their daughters should be vaccinated would be a much better alternative than forcing them to vaccinate. When my daughter reaches that age, I will have her vaccinated regardless of if it is mandatory or not. I think most parents will if they understand the risks.

    The fact that HPV has reached national consciousness is a new development. HPV has only been on my radar screen for less than a year and I am sure there are more people who need to become aware.

  • Faultline USA

    Good article and I agree. Gave you my RCP vote today. I believe that it’s all about proping up Merck. That’s why he bypassed the state legislature. Remember we are talking about “Trans Texas Corridor” Perry – the fellow who “really” wants to secure our borders. Sure!

  • VRB

    I do believe that there are more 11 year olds are having sex than are raped. The real problem is that as a parent you may think you can predict when they are about to engage in sexual activity, but you would not know for sure. You may not be sure if they do, they would know they are engaging in sexual activity. I don’t remember all of the details but a few years ago there were a bunch of middle school kids that were having orgies. It only got noticed when the STD rate among that age group soared. There are so many parents who say, not my child, and don’t think what happen to a child physically when they start to enter puberty at 9 or 10, especially girls. By the time they are 11 they could be two years into womanhood and there minds are quite different, than say a girl who entered puberty at 17.

  • JR

    If it was a vaccine that would effectively prevent other cancers such as lung, prostate, bone, pancreatic or breast cancer or lymphomas and leukemias, then none of you would be objecting to it. But because it involves a cancer that is acquired primarily to SEX, especially in young females, you get all uptight and puffed up about individual liberty.

  • Brad Warbiany


    None of us are objecting to it. We aren’t objecting to educating people about it. We’re not objecting to people getting the vaccine. In fact, if I had a daughter, I would most certainly choose for her to get vaccinated (assuming, of course, that I got a look to make sure there weren’t worse side effects than the vaccine itself).

    We’re just objecting to making it mandatory.

  • Aimee

    How can any ‘side effects’ be worse than cancer? A possible fever and a sore spot is nothing to deal with compared to the alternative. It should just be put in there with the rest of their routine shots. For anyone to say it will give the impression that it is a pass to go and have all the unprotected sex they want is crazy. It’s not like the Govt. is going to hunt you down and hit your daughter with a blow dart filled with the vaccine if you fail to get it done. Just like the other vaccines, you can’t be forced to vaccinate your kids, whatever it may be if someone is that opposed to it.

  • Brad Warbiany


    My point about side effects is out of ignorance, that I haven’t studied this vaccine. I know that the smallpox vaccine can have some pretty nasty side effects, which is one of the reasons we don’t continue to use it. I don’t know enough about the HPV vaccine, but it’s probably not severe.

    But they are coming pretty close to forcing you to vaccinate your kids. The stories I’ve seen is that if you don’t vaccinate your daughter, she can’t go to public school. That’s pretty close to force.

  • Adam Selene


    How can any ’side effects’ be worse than cancer?

    As Brad pointed out, with the smallpox vaccine, the side effects are pretty bad. Statistically significant numbers of people die from the side effects of that vaccine. To be blunt, you are using emotions to twist the debate away from an appropriate focus: What power should the government have over our bodies?


    Just like the other vaccines, you can’t be forced to vaccinate your kids, whatever it may be if someone is that opposed to it.

    Have you ever tried to register your child for a public school without the approved vaccination series? Given the near virtual monopoly on education of children that our government now has, you are, de facto, if not de jure, required to vaccinate your children. Your point is factually correct but in reality incorrect. In all but the most technical legal sense the government has mandated what we can do with our bodies in regard to vaccination, regardless of our personal wishes. Power is power, regardless of laws.

    So, back to the fundamental question.

    Who owns my body and may decide the disposition of it?

  • Stephen Littau

    “Who owns my body and may decide the disposition of it?”

    That’s a good question Adam. For adults the answer is obvious: the individual does. But what about minors? Do you believe a minor should have the right to be vaccinated against the parent’s wishes? What if the child is not old enough to make an informed choice? Does the parents now have ownership of thier children’s bodies until adulthood?

  • Stephen Littau

    Actually, I think Doug’s previous post on this issue strikes the right balance:

    Even with “forced” vaccinations, most states have opt out provisions (though there is the slippery slope that such provisions could be eliminated). With education, hopefully most parents will do the right thing by thier children (though its still a little disturbing that a child could pay the price because of a parent’s bad choice).

  • Adam Selene

    It’s more disturbing, in my eyes, that faceless bureaucrats make choices for people they will never see, have no idea of the “side effects” of their choices and really don’t care. The closer to the individual that political decisions are made, the better.

  • Adam Selene

    Who is the guardian of a child? The state or the parent? What makes the state a better guardian? If the state, how does that make us different from the USSR, Nazi Germany or Ba’athist Iraq? Who gave the state that power? Why shouldn’t the child, at the age of 10 or 11, be able to exercise that level of autonomy over their body? I just let my much younger daughter decide if she would get her ears pierced. In the world view I am hearing, she certainly wouldn’t be allowed that autonomy, although she made a mature, informed decision.

  • Stephen Littua

    Those are all great points Adam. To attempt to answer your questions, I would say that parents make better guardians than the state at least 85% of the time or better. What makes the state a better guardian? It depends on the state and depends on the guardain. Clearly there are cases where abusive parents should have their children taken away by the state but most of the time the parents are better than even the best state.

    I’m not sure that vaccinations and ear piercing are quite at the same level though. Can a child really make the choice to be vaccinated? I’m not so sure.

    To be very clear, the world view you are hearing is not my world view. Whatever my views on the HPV vaccine, I think Governor Perry is going about this the wrong way. IF such a vaccination program is enacted, it should at least be debated in the state house; not by executive order.

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  • Shannon

    The issue at had is the concept of the state as guardian when the parents are unable or unwilling to provide competant care to children. The child citizens of the US should have the same rights as the adult citizens but in fact they do not. The problem is that children are essentially property of the parent until such time as the child achieves their physical and financial freedom from the parent. This gives parents the ability to shape and mold their children as they see fit–with which i wholeheartedly agree. However, it also gives parens the ability to neglect and ignore much needed items in a child’s educational and financial life–or to shape and mold the child into a truely reprehensible adult. It is all a slippery slope. I was not raised well by my parents and have through force of will made a better person of myself. However, I will be paying physically and professionally for errors of judgement made by my parents for the rest of my life. (poor healthcare and education) Where do we draw the line–where do the rights of a child to “basic” needs cross the rights of the parents and indeed, what are “basic needs” to be defined as? As I attain adulthood how do my rights change in the transition and do we have the right to villify our parents for the consequences of polio or cervical cancer or chicken pox should they have chosen to not vaccinate me? Most adults, and I’d warrent children too, when confronted with the consequenses of such diseases would gladly choose a quick jab in the arm over the loss of the ability to walk, bear children or live cancer free. Indeed some of the consequences of not being vaccinated can be death or long term disability. So, can we charge parents who specifically choose not to vaccinate with murder if the child dies? If the child of such a parent becomes disabled who is to provide for the child’s care? The state?–but why should the state pay for this when it was offered and for free and suggested/required? Be careful in reviewing this issue as it can easily become a “have your cake and eat it too” issue. Who is at issue if an unvaccinated child infects another child with an illness–can those parents be taken to task for infecting the general populace? (For example: what if a friend’s unvaccinated 2 year old kisses my newborn (currently unvaccinated but will be vaccinated) before she is vaccinated and transmits something potentially deadly to her? What recourse then?
    As with agreement on general government and education, vaccination is a need which crosses all boundaries regardless of race/religion/sex/$$. We should view it from a collective stance.