During third reading debate last week, Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) impugned the integrity of Sen. Lawson and other female legislators who participate in Women In Government, suggesting they had been bought off by Merck, the only pharmaceutical company which manufactures the vaccine against HPV. Delph expressed outrage that a private company would use the legislative process to enact laws to improve its bottom-line revenues. Delph's protestations seem a little specious when you consider the fact he earns a living as Senior Director of Government Affairs for Comcast, a publicly-regulated utility. The last time I checked, the cable TV industry had a very active lobby at the federal and state level, which works hard to improve bottom-line revenues for their industry. Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne), according to eyewitnesses, wasn't amused by Delph's comments, who say Long gave Delph a little tongue-lashing when he concluded his comments on Lawson's legislation.
So who does Delph turned to for consolation after earning the wrath of his Republican leader? Why none other than the American Family Association's Micah Clark. As Clark explains in an item entitled, "Senator, You shouldn't say what others are saying":
I got a call from Senator Mike Delph on Monday evening on his drive home to tell me of the vote on Senate Bill 327. To no one’s surprise the HPV vaccine bill passed. It was a lopsided vote of 45-5.Well, if Sen. Lawson and other female legislators were outraged by the antics of Delph, Drozda, Clark and other members of the religious right, they should get a load of what's happening next door in Illinois, where similar legislation is being debated. As State House reporter Rich Miller explains, opponents there went so far as to make an issue of the sex life of the bill's sponsor after she candidly admitted she had HPV. An anti-abortion lobbyist, Jill Stanek, had this to say about Sen. Debbie Halvorson (D) after she acknowledged she had HPV:
The heated, hour-long debate focused on cervical cancer far more than the effectiveness of the new vaccine or the rights of parents to be provided the fullest amount of information and choices regarding an STD vaccine for 9-12 year old girls.
Senator Delph took a verbal beating from some very emotional legislators, just as Senator Jeff Drozda had a few days earlier when he tried to amend SB 327 to give parents more information. Senator Delph irritated the bill’s authors, and Senate leadership, by bringing up a topic that has been widely addressed in the media from publications like The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle, The Indianapolis Star. Delph’s offense was citing the huge amounts of money that Merck not only stands to make with this STD vaccine, but also has been pouring into campaign coffers, and lobbying efforts. Senator Delph questioned the propriety of such efforts to quickly rush through bills like SB 327 in two dozen states.
So when state Sen. Debbie Halvorson admitted she had HPV and worried others might get it, you would think she'd focus on her behavior that caused her to contract that sexually transmitted disease.Shame on Stanek. In reacting to Stanek's comments about Halverson, Miller said, "I’ve always liked Jill, but her remarks crossed the line of decency and could backfire." "The legislation could pass just because of the tactics used against it." "This slash and burn stuff might work in the national media (although its influence seems to be fading fast), but people here are a bit more reasonable than the DC gasbags." I would add to Miller's comments, do you think Stanek would ask those same questions of Marilyn Quayle, who is a cervical cancer survior, or suggest she acquired it because former Vice President Dan Quayle was sleeping around?
Halvorson would be most helpful by discussing the health consequences of pre- or extra-marital sex. Here are some potential topics:
- Halvorson could discuss the number of sex partners she has had throughout her lifetime and how each one increased the likelihood of contracting HPV. If Halvorson even had only one sex partner aside from her husband, she could discuss how one can contract HPV from a sole encounter.
- Halvorson could discuss whether she realized at the time her sex partner carried HPV, which most trusting, vulnerable women don't.
- Halvorson could disclose whether it was her husband who passed HPV on to her after sleeping with other women, demonstrating another reason for chaste
behavior outside the marriage bedroom.
- More uncomfortably, if Halvorson contracted HPV through rape, she could discuss ways to avoid rape.
- But no, Halvorson does not advocate avoiding a risky behavior that leads not only to HPV but to 20+ other STDs and their strains, along with unplanned pregnancy. Halvorson merely advocates trying to avoid the consequences of risky behavior. Shame on her.
Gays are used to these kinds of tactics. The religious right has been saying from the very beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that people who get it are to blame and deserve to die because they engaged in "immoral" and "risky sexual behavior." The tactic is frought with problems, though, with respect to HPV because of the sheer numbers of people infected with it. Unless Stanek lives under a rock, most of the people she associates with on a daily basis are either infected or have a close family member or friend who is infected. Can you imagine what their reaction will be if researchers ever develop a vaccine against HIV? Wouldn't you want your children vaccinated? You can bet the religious right will oppose it on the basis it would encourage people to engage in "homosexual sex."