Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The FDA approved a vaccine for HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer. Believe it or not, this is actually opposed by the religious right in one of the most twisted and destructive bits of ‘thinking” I’ve ever seen.

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. “Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,” says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

And remember, these people are “pro-life” while demanding that life saving vaccines be denied to women. This is so insane that the word insane hardly seems strong enough to convey the lunacy. Apparently, using the vaccine leads to dancing, which leads to gay marriage, which leads to beastiality. Or something.

Comments

  1. #1 Orac
    June 9, 2006

    Quite a few of these people tend to be antivaccination anyway. This particular vaccine gives them a lovely religious excuse to let their latent (or not-so-latent) distrust of vaccines come into full flower.

  2. #2 Ereshkigal
    June 9, 2006

    How fortunate that these bizarros weren’t available to block antibiotics.

    Can you imagine a world where penicillin would have been blocked because it could treat syphilis?

    After all, without the threat of syphilitic dementia and pain, people might have sexual relations.

  3. #3 steve s
    June 9, 2006

    Can’t have seat belts. They promote wrecks. Can’t have fire extinguishers. They promote wrecks. Can’t have defibrillators. They promote cheeseburgers.

  4. #4 steve s
    June 9, 2006

    That second wrecks should be fires, obviously.

  5. #5 Krauze
    June 9, 2006

    According to this press release, they aren’t opposed to the vaccine, but instead want people to know about “what these vaccines can and cannot achieve, their efficacy, and their risks (including side effects) and benefits.”

  6. #6 Tracy P. Hamilton
    June 9, 2006

    You should remove the emergency brakes from your car, since front disk brakes are the best way to slow a car down.

  7. #7 nicole
    June 9, 2006

    I read about this last night, and I’ve got to say it’s some of the best news I could have hoped for from the FDA in these dark times. I thought for sure Bush’s appointees would have stalled this the way they stalled OTC approval for Plan B.

  8. #8 Andrea
    June 9, 2006

    It’s not lunacy or absurdity, Ed, it’s about adhering to God’s rules. If you’d just do that, you wouldn’t need the vaccine. Or something. Selective following, anyway. I don’t think Lot was married to his daughters when they got him drunk and jumped his bones, but that’s different, that’s OT and all.

  9. #9 NJ Osprey
    June 9, 2006

    The New Scientist article noted that: Meanwhile in developing countries, where 80 per cent of deaths from cervical cancer occur, social taboos may be even more powerful. The head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, N. K. Ganguly, says it will take a big educational effort to convince parents. Vaccinating men could be the best way to prevent the spread of HPV among women.

    In the US, this has been seen as a women’s heath issue since women are the population at risk for developing cervical cancer.

    However, the above suggestion that males also be vaccinated makes a great deal of sense, especially if women are contracting the virus from husbands who may not even be aware that they have been exposed prior to marriage.

    I would hope that the vaccine would work in males. This also illustrates that other cultures may see very different solutions to problems that may prove effective.

    As someone who lost a very close friend to cervical cancer, I know the importance of this vaccination and would not hesitate for one moment to have either my son or daughter vaccinated.

    As for the Family Research Council, their arguement that parents should make an informed decision sounds like their nonsense about physician-patient notification about the “risks” of abortion and 24-hour waiting periods.

    Although all procedures carry risks, including carrying a child to term, the fundies have sought to create legislation that exaggerates these risks to create a climate of rear. This includes making a few of these risks up.

  10. #10 NJ Osprey
    June 9, 2006

    Correction – last paragraph should have read “climate of fear”

  11. #11 Raging Bee
    June 9, 2006

    NJO: a good bit of fundie rhetoric does indeed create a “climate of rear.” Or at least a strong smell of rear.

  12. #12 ImagoArt
    June 9, 2006

    From the Family Research Council,

    However, we also recognize that HPV infection can result from sexual abuse or assault, and that a person may marry someone still carrying the virus. These provide strong reasons why even someone practicing abstinence and fidelity may benefit from HPV vaccines.

    Because parents have an inherent right to be the primary educator and decision maker regarding their children’s health, we would oppose any measures to legally require vaccination or to coerce parents into authorizing it. Because the cancer-causing strains of HPV are not transmitted through casual contact, there is no justification for any vaccination mandate as a condition of public school attendance. However, we do support the widespread distribution and use of vaccines against HPV.

    Debora MacKenzie is quite the dancer, it seems, in claiming that the Family Research Council is opposing the vaccination. Unless, of course, by “vaccination” she means mandatory vaccination.

    Andrea said,

    … Selective following, anyway. I don’t think Lot was married to his daughters when they got him drunk and jumped his bones, but that’s different, that’s OT and all.

    What does that account have to do with the subject of Ed’s post? Are you implying that, because the account of Lot is included in the OT, then like actions are permissible?

    And yes, it is true that “If you’d just do that, you wouldn’t need the vaccine”. Funny how that works, isn’t it? You might even say it was designed to work that way.

    Rusty Lopez

  13. #13 Andrea
    June 9, 2006

    Rusty –

    Try reading my comment again, but this time implant your tongue firmly in your cheek.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    June 9, 2006

    Rusty and Krauze are correct to take me to task on this one. I took a single quote from an article and ran with it without bothering to dig deeper. Mea culpa.

  15. #15 nicole
    June 9, 2006

    It’s true that the right-wing groups have been strangely quiet since yesterday when this was approved, but we already know for a fact they were against such things, or at least their co-conspirators were. Just because the Family Research Council is acting sane at the moment doesn’t take away from things that have been said in the past. Bridget Maher, who works for them, said in April, “Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex.”

    Not to mention this priceless quote from our friend Phyllis Schlafly:
    “It’s very healthy for a young girl to be deterred from promiscuity by fear of contracting a painful, incurable disease, or cervical cancer, or sterility, or the likelihood of giving birth to a dead, blind, or brain-damaged baby (even 10 years later when she may be happily married).”

    My guess is that at this point they’re facing facts: they lost the battle, know that 80% of parents would give this to their kids, and have to come up with a new line to give on it. The other thing I truly don’t understand is, considering the enormous percentage of the population that has HPV, even in North America, why is this even an abstinence issue? I mean, more than half of all North American women have it. Just because you were abstinent, doesn’t mean your husband was. And just because he says he was, doesn’t mean he’s not lying. I don’t see why you’d want to gamble your health on someone else’s self-reported sexual activity.

    Oh, and NJO, the vaccine hasn’t been approved for men yet, because Merck had trouble getting men to participate in the clinical trials (something about emery boards and penises that drove them away…). They managed to find methods that were easier on men and did complete the trials eventually, but it took a little longer and the FDA approval for them will come a bit later (assuming it does come, but they seem optimistic).

  16. #16 CPT_Doom
    June 9, 2006

    Just because you were abstinent, doesn’t mean your husband was. And just because he says he was, doesn’t mean he’s not lying. I don’t see why you’d want to gamble your health on someone else’s self-reported sexual activity.

    Not to mention the phenomenon of “born-again” virginity, which has also been promoted by the “pro-family” movement – the idea being that if you were promiscuous, you don’t have to continue to be, but you still might be a risk factor for HPV transmission. The religious right will really go bonkers, though, I predict, if the vaccine is explicitly approved to prevent anal cancer, particularly in gay men (straight men are not typically at risk from HPV because they are not the “receptive” partner). You can be sure they will be up in arms about “promoting homosexuality” if that ever occurs. Thankfully, physicians can prescribe medications, including vaccines, for any purpose they choose, once the product is on the market.

    IIRC, the “religious right” was at first very much against this vaccine, for the very reason Ed notes, but changed tunes when they realized that just having a specific person be abstinent is not enough to stop HPV transmission (because of the questionable history of the other partner). However, I really wish that one of our politicians had the guts to truly stand up the “pro-family” movement on a subject like this, and refuse to promote their morality that pre-marital sex is always bad. Personally, I do not think the government should be in the business of telling adult men and women in their twenties and thirties that they should not be having sex (The HPV vaccine is recommended for younger people because it is so hard to predict when sexual activity will first occur for any one person).

  17. #17 windy
    June 9, 2006

    And yes, it is true that “If you’d just do that, you wouldn’t need the vaccine”.

    Just do what? Avoid skin contact?

  18. #18 ImagoArt
    June 9, 2006

    Andrea,

    As the father of two kids, I’m pitched the “I was only joking” excuse quite a bit. It’s the standard fare when they want to get away with something via a technicality. So, let’s just say I’m a bit skeptical when I hear that rationale used.

    Windy,

    Sorry, I didn’t replicate Andrea’s entire comment. She said, “It’s not lunacy or absurdity, Ed, it’s about adhering to God’s rules. If you’d just do that, you wouldn’t need the vaccine.”

    Rusty Lopez

  19. #19 windy
    June 9, 2006

    Sorry, I didn’t replicate Andrea’s entire comment. She said, “It’s not lunacy or absurdity, Ed, it’s about adhering to God’s rules. If you’d just do that, you wouldn’t need the vaccine.”

    I know, and it’s probably silly to start arguing about an argument that was meant in jest.

    But taking it at face value, how do God’s rules prevent perinatal transmission of HPV, for example?

  20. #20 ImagoArt
    June 9, 2006

    Windy,

    Okay, my take on Andrea’s tongue in cheek statement was that she was referencing the Family Research Council’s stance on abstinence which, ultimately, references God’s rules. For example, if God’s rules are that sex is to only be between a husband and a wife, after they are married, and they followed those rules, then there would be no transmission of HPV.

    Rusty

  21. #21 windy
    June 9, 2006

    For example, if God’s rules are that sex is to only be between a husband and a wife, after they are married, and they followed those rules, then there would be no transmission of HPV.

    I got that, but that’s not correct. Even if there would be no non-marital sex in the world at all from this moment on, significant portions of the next couple of generations would still get infected by HPV at birth (or possibly through other types of skin contact). Wouldn’t it still be worth it to vaccinate to get rid of the virus now, instead of in a hundred years?

  22. #22 ImagoArt
    June 9, 2006

    Windy,

    I understand how actions from this point on would not undo consequences from past actions. This is part of the Christian concept of the effects of humanity’s fall (and that of an individual’s own actions).

    Yes, I think it is worth it to vaccinate against HPV.

    Rusty

  23. #23 Krauze
    June 10, 2006

    Hi Ed,

    “Rusty and Krauze are correct to take me to task on this one. I took a single quote from an article and ran with it without bothering to dig deeper.”

    If I were you, I’d update the original post to reflect this.

  24. #24 Leni
    June 10, 2006

    Although I got a good laugh out of “anal cancer”, I imagine that if an AIDS vaccine is ever developed we will hear all manner of idiocies about how it will promote gayness and promiscuity.

  25. #25 Beaming Visionary
    June 10, 2006

    While we’re being so accurate and all, I recommend that Rusty not use the term “God’s rules” and instead use term “the rules of my religion” to reflect the fact that until demonstrated otherwise, rules casually attributed to deities actually originated in humans who then offloaded them onto unseen overlords in order to leverage their irrational faith of choice. Thanks.

  26. #26 Andrea
    June 12, 2006

    Rusty didn’t say “God’s rules,” I did. For the sake of accuracy and all. And when I say, “I was only joking,” I mean – as literally as I can possibly be here – I was only joking.

    Can we let it go now? I think the FRC is ridiculous, they DO have an agenda here, clearly stated in April 2005 (someone mentioned that Bridget Maher’s comment as being just past April, but it wasn’t). It’s absurd.