The HPV Vaccine: Rick Perry Was For The ‘Mandate’ Before He Was Against It

Texas Tribune’s Jay Root notices that presidential candidate Rick Perry (R-TX) is backing away from his controversial executive order mandating young girls to receive the HPV immunization. The EO, issued in February 2007, sparked a backlash within Perry’s own party and eventually led the state legislature to override the order. Perry succumbed to the lawmakers’ wishes, but continued to defend his plan until he began campaigning to win the GOP nomination for president. Below is a short timeline of Perry’s evolution on the issue:

FEBRUARY 5, 2007 — ‘DOESN’T PROMOTE PROMISCUITY’: “Providing the HPV vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity any more than the Hepatitis B vaccine promotes drug use. If the medical community developed a vaccine for lung cancer, would the same critics oppose it, claiming it would encourage smoking?

MAY 9, 2007 — ‘OPPONENTS MISLED PUBLIC’: “I challenge legislators to look these women in the eyes and tell them, ‘We could have prevented this disease for your daughters and granddaughters, but we just didn’t have the gumption to address all the misguided and misleading political rhetoric.‘”

JANUARY 2010 — ‘STAND PROUDLY BY IT’: “I always stand for life. That issue was about being pro-life. No sir, [it was not an error], not from my position. I’m about pro-life. As a matter of fact, that piece of legislation was not mandatory. In the sense that, if you can say no, something is not mandatory. And so I stand proudly by my pro-life position.”

SEPTEMBER 2010 — ‘DID WHAT WAS RIGHT’: “Let me tell you why it wasn’t a bad idea: Even though that was the result I was looking for, and that becoming the standard procedure for protecting young women against this very heinous deadly dreadful disease, it caused a national debate. I knew was going to take a political hit … at the end of the day, I did what was right from my perspective, and I did something that saved people’s lives and, you know, that’s a big deal.”

AUGUST 14, 2011 — ‘DIDN’T DO MY RESEARCH’: “I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry”…Instead of making the vaccine mandatory, “what we should of done was a program that frankly allowed them to opt in or some type of program like that.”

The January quote from his debate with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who was then challenging Perry for the governorship, is particularly telling since Perry tried to portray the order as not mandating a vaccination. And while the measure did allow parents “to submit a request for a conscientious objection affidavit form,” it specifically mandated the vaccine for all female children before they entered middle school:

Rules. The Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner shall adopt rules that mandate the age appropriate vaccination of all female children for HPV prior to admission to the sixth grade.

Unlike Perry’s order, the Affordable Care Act does not use the term “mandate,” but instead requires individuals who don’t obtain coverage to pay a penalty. The law also allows religious organizations and those who can’t afford coverage to opt out the requirement, thus fitting Perry’s definition of “not mandatory.”