Merck Pharmaceutical has been very busy. They have been lobbying legislatures in all 50 states pushing Gardasil which is the only vaccination known to protect women from contracting human papillomavirus or HPV. Gardasil is not one hundred percent effective in preventing HPV. It is touted to be effective against about seventy percent of the strains of HPV which can lead to cervical cancer in women. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 11,100 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007. The disease will claim the life of close to 3,700 of those women. If Gardasil delivers on its promise, those numbers could be reduced over time to just over 3,300 women diagnosed and less than 715 deaths. That would certainly be a dramatic improvement and is should be enough to motivate parents to have their daughters vaccinated without the government getting involved.
Approximately 20 states already have bills introduced in their legislatures which would force girls as young as 10 years old to be vaccinated or they will not be able to attend public school. Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Virginia have bills that have gained at least initial readings. My own state of South Carolina has a bill that has been assigned to a subcommittee and is generating heated debate. The bill, sponsored by Joan Brady (R-Richland County) originally had no opt out clause for any reason. Responding to tremendous pressure from the public, Brady amended the bill to include an opt out clause for parents for any reason. Texas governor Rick Perry decided to bypass the legislature altogether and simply issued an executive order requiring girls entering the 6th grade in 2008 to be vaccinated.
The arguments in favor of mandatory vaccinations are strong. Statistics show that only about 25 percent of the population receives vaccinations when they are optional. As one might expect, mandatory vaccinations raise that number to just over 95 percent. The argument is also made that mandatory vaccinations will make the drug more affordable, and will guarantee no one will be excluded for financial reasons. Since there are 200 cases of cervical cancer each year in South Carolina and 55 women die, many people believe the moral thing to do is get the government involved.
But there is absolutely no constitutional authority for such a mandate. Some say we already have mandatory vaccinations against measles, smallpox, and other deadly airborne viruses so why shouldn’t we protect women against the possibility of cervical cancer? The answer, of course is that HPV isn’t airborne. The only way to contract the virus is through sexual contact. While the government may have a compelling reason to protect the general population from a potentially deadly virus that can be spread by casual contact it has no such reason or the moral authority to force such an action against a disease that can be prevented by following the Bible’s plan for sex.
But, you ask, what about women who abstain from sex before marriage but marry someone who has been sexually active and is a carrier of the virus? Shouldn’t women be protected against the possibility that even if they follow God’s plan for sex they might still be infected? The answer is absolutely but peace of mind should be gained by personal choice and not by government coercion. According to the Center for Disease Control one out of every six men will suffer from prostate cancer at some point their life. Knowing this, I assure you if a vaccine against prostate cancer was developed it would not take a government decree to get me to roll up my sleeve. I believe the same is true for women. If Gardasil is made available and widely advertised I believe most parents will have their daughters vaccinated. The opt out option, which many believe solves the issue solves nothing. Parents who choose to opt out will certainly have to answer a lot of questions and fill out a lot of forms. Pressure will be placed on parents who opt out with attempts made to make them feel like bad parents. Why put that burden on someone who wants to avoid the vaccination instead of placing the responsibility with the person who wants it?
One final point in this debate bears exploration. Our society is moving quickly to try to remove the consequences of sin. Instead of telling people they should simply stop engaging in immoral homosexual behavior we spend billions upon billions of dollars looking for a way to prevent AIDS. If tomorrow every person on planet earth began following God’s plan for sexual actively (one man with one woman in the context of marriage for life) AIDS would disappear in a generation. Instead of telling people that the use of alcohol and drugs will eventually destroy their lives we pass laws designed to regulate the consequences of their personal destruction. HPV, along with a host of other sexually transmitted diseases, is rising to epidemic levels because we refuse to obey God. Many have simply given up on morality as a preventative for the consequences of sin. Rather than waging a preemptive war against sin they would rather surrender and hope that mankind can find a way to remove the inevitable consequences of their desire to fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Paul warned the church at Galatia, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7 NASV). This has become known as the law of the harvest. It is a law of God which cannot be set aside by the laws of man. Try as we might and noble as our motivations may be, sin has consequences that cannot be legislated out of existence. It is possible this vaccine may make actually make young girls more susceptible to disease by leading them to believe being vaccinated means they can sleep around without fear, leading to more sexual encounters.
As Christians, we should thank God for the knowledge that has led to the development of this vaccine and we should encourage its use. But we should not give anyone the false hope that the consequences of sin can be overcome by anything less than our concern for personal holiness before a holy God.