Co-defendants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis photo by Jim Young COMMENTARY I BY ANDREW WHEAT A Shot of Toomey Gov. Rick Perry had been such a dependable drone for social conservatives for so long that he had been all but absorbed into the wallpaper enveloping that hive. But last month he incited a swarm of controversy among his traditional supporters by directing prepubescent girls to be vaccinated for sexually transmitted viruses that cause genital warts and cervical cancer. The response was swift and stinging. “This [order] replaces the parent with the state,” Cathie Adams, president of the conservative Texas Eagle Forum, told the Dallas Morning News. “You’re not only turning parents’ rights upside-down, but you’re also subjecting children to an experimental vaccine.” The governor’s order did not just usurp the prerogatives of conservative parents. Senate Health & Human Services Committee Chair Jane Nelson stimnedf Her one-sentence letter urging the governor to rescind his vaccination order carried 26 signatures from the 31-member Senate. A longer and stronger protest letter in the House carried the signatures of 32 members. “Parents are responsible for the welfare of their children, and health-care questions are best left to parents;’ said the House let”This is especially true in the decision to vaccinate an 11-year-old child for a non-environmentally transmitted disease.” Some conservative criticism of the vaccine even suggested that sexually transmitted diseases serve a vital social or theological role in discouraging premarital and extramarital sex. Amidst this firestorm Perry received rare liberal praise from the editorial board of The New York Times and from state Rep. Jessica Farrar. The Houston Democrat said her own bill to mandate the vaccine was withering under attacks from conservatives such as Adams. A quote in the Houston Chronicle that said Perry’s vaccination order recognizes “the growing, serious problem of sexually transmitted diseases and that it would be irresponsible to not make more available a vaccine to prevent a serious and deadly disease,” made it sound as if even Planned Parenthood was jumping on the governor’s bandwagon. But wait a minute. That wasn’t Planned Parenthood’s sound bite. The Chronicle attributed it instead to John Colyandro, founder of the Texas Conservative Coalition and executive director of the coalition’s Research Institute. Adopting the language of the reproductive rights movement to advocate the cervical-cancer vaccine represents an even sharper turnabout for Colyandro than it did for Perry. As a University of Texas student in 1983a year before then-Democrat Perry won his first state House raceColyandro launched the conservative Texas Review newspaper. Colyandro’s conservative credentials include orga 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 9, 2007
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