For the religious right, it’s usually about sex in one way or another.
This Gardasil battle between Republican presidential nomination frontrunner Rick Perry and lower-level contenders Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann is largely about sex, specifically people either not having it or paying the price of life if they do. I remember when Perry, as Texas governor, signed the order calling for vaccination of Texas girls with Gardasil to protect the girls from the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can and often does cause cervical, vulvar, penile, anal and vaginal cancer. It also can cause infertility.
Apparently, they also believed Texans should pay for their promiscuity with either their lives, the inability to produce new lives, or both. Yes, when it came to a choice of sex or death, the religious right was on the side of death over sex in the Gardasil battle.
One might assume that factors including a person’s upbringing, religious beliefs, the amount of love at home and self-esteem would have a greater effect on potential for promiscuity than whether someone is protected from HPV by a vaccination. One apparently would be terribly wrong to assume that. According to religious extremists, protection from HPV could promote a heck of a lot of random sex among the masses. Perry’s Gardasil order, which had an opt-out option for parents, was never implemented because it was overturned by the Texas Legislature. Still, it has become a hot-button issue in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. And the hubbub about the Gardasil mess has hurt Perry’s campaign.
I am no Ricky Perry fan. Make no mistake about that. I don’t like his pseudo-tough guy swagger and I don’t like his regressive politics. Even the way his shirts are tailored to make his collars crawl up on his neck like the Little Drummer Boy annoys me.
I also am almost libertarian in my attitude toward the government telling me what to do and what to think, so at its heart I dislike Perry’s Gardasil action. But as overreaching as he may have been in the matter, his intent, I think was good. I genuinely believe Perry was trying to save lives, and saving lives, even of the promiscuous, even of those without health insurance, is always a good thing.
About 20 years ago I saw a highly placed woman in the religious right concede the anti-abortion movement was a first step. The next step was the anti-birth control movement, something that since has picked up steam. But ultimately, she said, the idea was a movement for people to stop having sex unless they were trying to procreate … and that went for consenting adults, even married couples.
The undercurrent in the Gardasil debate for religious conservatives is that Perry promoted promiscuity and therefore is no true religious conservative. Bachmann and Santorum, who have shown no reluctance in their political careers to look into people’s bedrooms and judge, are pushing that mindset, and not so subtly, with this issue. And it is resonating with the religious right.
Like Rick Perry, I’m pro-life. Yes I am anti-abortion but I’m also pro-life because I’m against people dying of cancer simply because they made love to somebody. Michele Bachmann and Rich Santorum are welcome to get on that true pro-life bandwagon.
Bret Kofford teaches writing at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus. His views don’t necessarily reflect those of SDSU or its employees. He can be reached at Kofford@roadrunner.com