In last night's CNN/Tea Party debate among Republican presidential candidates, Michelle Bachmann slammed Texas Gov. Rick Perry for trying to mandate the HPV vaccination for middle school girls in his state and for taking contributions from the manufacturer of the drug. For some reason, Perry tried to defend the policy even after he has already said it was a mistake. The following is my blog post from 2007, after the Kentucky house of Representatives passed a bill that would have mandated the administration of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, manufactured by Merck & Co., to middle school girls. It had an "opt out" provision in it, just like the same policy in Perry's Texas. Well, if the arguments for Gardasil are valid for Gardasil, then why aren't those same arguments applicable to, say, mandating circumcision for middle school boys?
According to the new issue of Time Magazine, a new National Institutes of Health study shows that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 60 percent. A report of the study appears in the most recent issue of The Lancet, a widely regarded British medical journal.
Now obviously this means that the more boys who are circumcised, the better off we will be. The more circumcisions, the less HIV. And the less HIV, the fewer deaths that will result from it. And how best to ensure that more boys are circumcised? Surely the answer to that question is obvious:
Mandate the circumcision of middle school boys.
Just look at the HIV statistics. How many people die of HIV every year? Imagine the lives that might be saved if we ensured that every young boy was circumcised before entering middle school.
And that's why we need to mandate circumcision in Kentucky: because it will save lives.
Now undoubtedly there will be those detractors who will oppose this idea. But these are the same people who opposed mandating the HPV vaccine: religious people. And we know about them, don't we?
These people say that the decision to circumcise their children should be left up to parents. And that would be a fine idea—if all parents were good parents. But we all know that is not the case. All parents are not good parents. There are some parents who will not do what is best for their own children (according to us), and so we must make these decisions for them.
According to most statistics, only 76 percent of boys are circumcised. But among some groups of people—and these are the people who we are really concerned about, even though we don’t like to admit it because we want them to continue to vote for us—the rate is as low as 45 percent.
The government has the responsibility to step into the relationship between families and their physicians for their own good. Of course, this principle does not extend to the abortion issue, where we take the complete opposite position. There, the government has no business in the health care decisions of individuals, as we have said repeatedly until we are blue in the face, and then decide to say something completely different.
But that is another issue altogether that we really don't want to talk about right now.
Back to these religious people who think that parents have rights. Even though these people will argue that mandating circumcision violates parental rights, they really have an ulterior motive. What really bothers them about mandating the circumcision of middle school boys is that it has to do with sex. In fact, as State Rep. Tom Burch points out, they wouldn't even be involved in debates like this if it weren't for sex.
Come to think of it, nobody would be involved in any debate if it weren't for sex. In fact, nobody would be here at all. But regardless, we need a mandate.
What mandate? Who said mandate? When did we ever say we should mandate circumcision? We're not talking about a mandate, and anyone who says that we ever proposed a mandate is misrepresenting us.
Now of course one of the reasons we need to mandate circumcision is that if we don't mandate it, insurance plans won't have to cover it. But, of course, like we just said, this isn't really a mandate. It's only a mandate in this paragraph so that we can make this argument. In the next paragraph, it isn't a mandate anymore.
You've got to follow along closely here and pay attention.
Never mind that most insurance plans already cover circumcision (just like they cover Gardasil, the HPV vaccine). Theoretically, under different circumstances, maybe in a different dimension (possibly in the one inhabited by the Lexington Herald-Leader), they could conceivably not cover circumcision. And what would happen then? Why, we would have uncovered circumcisions, that's what. And we know how embarrassing that would be.
That's why we need a mandate—even though that's not what this is.
One of the reasons this isn't a mandate is because we are going to allow the families of these boys to opt out. Now there are some people (those religious people) who ask why, if it is not a mandate, we need an opt out in the first place. They point out that there is no reason for an opt out unless it is a mandate. If it's not a mandate, there would be nothing to opt out from. They say we are talking out of both sides of our mouth. But remember, these are just crazy religious people.
And we say that out of both sides of our mouth.
Besides, if these people don't stop misrepresenting us, we're going to mandate this for them too—whether they need it or not. No anesthesia, no opt outs, no nothin'.
Remember, this non-mandate mandate could save thousands of lives nationally and worldwide. Now you may be wondering how a Kentucky law could save all of these lives across the nation and around the world. Well, we wonder about that also, but this same argument worked for the bill to mandate the HPV vaccination (SB 345, the mandate that wasn't a mandate), so we figure it will work on this issue too.
And let's deal right here with the nasty rumor going around that our support for mandatory circumcision of middle school boys has anything to do with campaign contributions to key Kentucky legislators by the National Association of Rabbinical and Non-Rabbinical Mohels (NARNRM). We can't deny this, of course, any more than we can deny that there were campaign contributions in 2004 and 2006 from Merck & Co., the developer of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, to legislators in whose committees HB 345 was considered. But so what?
Have you seen anything in the news media about these contributions? No. Just like there was nothing ever said about Merck's contributions. Now wouldn't you think that if there had been something amiss, the intrepid investigative reporters at newspapers like the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal would have said something about it?
But all this is just a distraction from the main point that anyone who opposes the idea of mandating circumcision is opposed to saving lives. If they were really concerned about lives, they would ignore the inherent contradictions and illogical arguments offered for this mandate that really isn't a mandate even though we keep saying so and then denying it.
But what do they do instead? They just keep confusing the issue with logic and facts that have nothing to do with whether it's a mandate—or isn't. Maybe.
In fact, speaking of the HPV vaccination for girls: in comparison to that idea, circumcision for boys is simple. Girls have to endure the ordeal of going in for three different shots. But circumcision for boys? It's quick and easy. Whack! and it's over.
Come to think of it, if we could get the doctor to slice just a few more inches closer to the body, we could probably prevent a lot of other societal havoc. But that's a discussion for another day. Or maybe next week, when we decide to mandate something else we think is good for everybody and then pretend that it's not a mandate, except on Tuesdays.
But for right now we need to think about HIV, and all the other diseases that have nothing to do with HIV but that kill people too because they all make us sad. And sadness is a bad thing—except when it gets people so emotional they forget that these other diseases have absolutely nothing to do with HIV and whether a mandate will actually reduce it, and whether this is really a mandate or not.
And that is why we need this new policy. Because it isn't a mandate.
Except when it is.
The above cartoon comes by way of On the Right, Steve Manning's blog.