Friday, February 09, 2007

Gunfight at the Health & Welfare Corral

My and David Edmunds' testimony yesterday on mandatory HPV vaccinations for middle school girls (House Bill 345) garnered quite a bit of press today. Apparently we said a few things House Health and Welfare Chairman Tom Burch and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Kathy Stein didn't like.

Poor dears.

We made the front page of the state's largest newspaper, The Louisville Courier-Journal (both the photos here were on the CJ's front page), and prominently featured in the Lexington Herald-Leader. The story was also covered in the Kentucky Inquirer.

I think it was the most contentious committee meeting I have seen in my 16 years at the Capitol. When we finished our testimony, Rep. Burch grabbed his mike and went, to use a technical term, "berserk". It was all about sex, he said. If it didn't have something to do with sex, we wouldn't be there. I responded that, if it weren't for sex, none of us would be there.

He was not amused.

It's hard for demagogues to be amused. It's harder to fulminate when you're being amused: it gets in the way of being shrill. But that's the price you pay for stridency.

Of course, none of our arguments had to do with sex, they had to do with safety and parental rights--which Burch and Stein completely ignored.

One interesting episode in the meeting was when Kathy Stein attacked my wife. I had mentioned that I had been talking with my wife and that she had observed that when you go to the doctor or the health department to get the mandatory vaccinations, you are handed pieces of paper which many people do not bother reading--because they don't really have to make a decision about it. It is mandatory. If a decision had to be made, they would be much more likely to read the information and be educated on what the vaccine was all about.

Stein remarked that she was shocked that my wife did not read the medical forms given to her about her children. Well, for one thing, I never said she didn't read them. And for another, I'd love to see Kathy Stein give my wife, who has four children and spends a good amount of her time shuttling kids to their various activies--and every waking hour doing something for them (or me), a lecture on how to better use her time.

But this is just the kind of insulting paternalism that Stein and Burch consistently practice in their policy decisions. They think they know better for people than people themselves do.

To see a streaming podcast of the confrontation, click here. Click about half way through. That's where the fun begins.

The attention to the bill only hurts its chances, and the more they ranted, the more the media was interested in it. When I walked out of the committee room, I was surrounded by reporters (see photo above).

We knew this bill was DOA in the Senate. After what happened yesterday, it may never see a vote on the House floor. Jody Richards is running for Governor, remember. What happens when amendments are introduced and Jody is put in the position of ruling them not germane when they really are? Won't look good to those voters he's trying to look like a conservative to. Rocky Adkins also is said not to want anything controversial to come to the floor. This is apparently the case with the bullying bill.

In fact, this bill could conceivably have some trouble in the committee itself. The longer this debate goes on, the worse the bill's chances become.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bill.


Trish said...

You should have asked Burch if he would be pushing the bill so hard if the Merck PAC hadn't donated to his campaign fund.

Keep up the good fight Mr. Cothran. I'll be on WYMT tonight and will provide a link to the sotry.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work. THe government has no right telling parents how to raise their children.

Anonymous said...

Voltaire wrote about the religious idiots who opposed vaccinations when they were first introduced in Europe. History repeats itself right here in KY.

Anonymous said...

So do you also disagree with the required vaccinations for babies? Are they equally repugnant since they save lives?

Anonymous said...

Why do you hate cancer cures? Have you ever seen the suffering of cancer victims?

Anonymous said...

Jesus believed in healing the sick, shouldn't you too? Isn't eliminating suffering when you can one of the greatest and most noble callings of one claiming to be Christian?

Martin Cothran said...

Several comments (probably by the same person--who knows, when you do not have the courage to state your name publicly) ask why we should not require the HPV vaccine if it saves lives. Here are my answers:

On the Voltaire comment: Is there an argument here rather than just name-calling? If so, I don't see it.

On vaccines required for babies: Tell me specifically which ones you are talking about and I'll tell you what I think.

Have I ever seen a suffering cancer victim? Yes. In fact, one of them was on the committee in Thursday's hearing on the bill to mandate the HPV vaccine, and she spoke out against the bill.

Did Jesus believe in healing the sick? If so, why don't I? Actually, I do. Now here's a question for you: Do you think that every cure for every disease should be mandated by the government?

La_Poissoniere_Sally said...

To not vaccinate a child when a safe, effective vaccine is available is tantamount to child abuse. This is in no way suggesting that parents don't know how to raise their children. Most parents aren't physicians and rely on them for expert advice. Among the practices which have made life healthier and longer for kids is vaccination against deadly ailments.

The vaccine does not promote promiscuity. That is most often advanced by being brought up in a repressive environment where women are not valued and children are assumed to be sinful.

TN teacher said...

Wow. You claim to have children, yet you seem to have no idea about what children face in today’s society. You say that fifth graders should not be subjected to the vaccine because fifth graders are not sexually active. You would be surprised at what happens at the fifth grade level and shortly after that grade. No amount of abstinence education will prevent young people from having sex. (Remember the Just Say No campaign for drugs? That certainly curbed the drug use among young people).

In listening to the proceedings, I repeatedly heard that the bill offers an opt-out provision. If an individual is against his/her daughter having this vaccine, then the vaccine does not have to be administered. The parental rights are there. So, your assertions that your objections to the bill center around its being “mandated” are muted by your statements suggesting that you’d be okay with the bill if language were added that educated recipients about abstinence. Just as Rep. Burch indicated, your argument centers around the fact that the virus is sexually transmitted.

As to Rep. Stein’s supposed attack on your wife – I heard clearly that any parent should read any and all documentation provided to him/her about any vaccine. Your comments about her parenting abilities suggested that she should be home rather than in her position in government.

I think your objections to the bill carry another agenda.

Martin Cothran said...


I appreciate your parenting advice. I have four children, and so have a passing familiarity with how to raise them. What are your qualifications?

You argue that not vaccinating children is child abuse. Is that right? Does that mean that if you do not have your children vaccinated for, say, the flu, that you would have Social Services come into peoples' homes and take their children away from them? After all ten times as many people are killed by the flu every year than die of cervical cancer.

And where did I say Gardasil would promote promiscuity? You socialists have this narrative you promote that the people opposed to the mandatory administration of Gardasil are all religious fundamentalists who are opposed to the vaccine per se because it contributes to promiscuity. Well, for one thing, I'm not a fundamentalist; and, for another, I don't make the argument that it leads to promiscuity.

What I have argued is that there are legitimate safety concerns about the vaccine, and that parents have the right to make the health decisions for their children, not the government.

It's so much easier to refute arguments that your opponents don't make rather than the ones they do make, isn't it?

If I made up arguments you didn't make and criticized them, would you consider that a responsible critique of your position?

Didn't think so.

By the way, you wouldn't happen to be one of these pro-abortion people who talk about the government keeping its hands of women's bodies, who then turns right around and wants to dictate what gets injected into those same bodies would you?

Martin Cothran said...

tn teacher:

You say I am unaware of what children face in today's society. As I pointed out above, I have four children, two in college. I'm also a teacher and deal with high school students on a daily basis. I appreciate your little sermon, but maybe you could tell me what expertise you have that I don't?

You seem to be asserting that kids as young as 5th grade are having sex in school at that age. Well, all I can say is that any school where children at that age are having sex needs to be shut down immediately. And every parent who is sending their child there needs to have his or her head examined.

In fact, maybe you and the previous poster could get together and somehow explain why you people think that deciding against administering a vaccine because of safety concerns (like the fact that Gardasil has not been tested on the age group of girls to which they want to administer it) should be considered child abusers, but parents who send their kids to schools where they are apparently having sex are responsible caregivers.

And, of course, you think my objections carry another agenda. So you mind read too? I wish I could do that. It would save me, as it has apparently saved you, from having to make an actual rational argument.

Anonymous said...

That video was histerical. If Burch and Stein had guns....well, lets just say your title would have been more fitting.

KYJurisDoctor said...

The bill has now been amended to make the vaccination voluntary. Check this out!

Martin Cothran said...

Just a clarification on kyjurisdoctor's last comment: HB 345 has not been amended yet. An amendment has been filed by Wuchner, but the amendment still has to be approved by House--if the bill comes to a vote (which is somewhat questionable at this point). The bill is only amended when the amendment is approved.