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Why do Republicans want women to die?


From the print-only version of this week's even more than usually stellar New Yorker,

On December 1st, Merck and Company applied to the Food and Drug Administration for a license to sell a vaccine that it has developed to protect women against the human papillomavirus. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States; more than half of all Americans become infected at some point in their lives. The virus is also the cause of cervical cancer, which kills nearly five thousand American women every year and hundreds of thousands more in the developing world. There are at least a hundred strains of HPV, but just two are responsible for most of the cancer. Two others cause genital warts, which afflict millions of people. Merck's vaccine, designed to protect against those four strains, has been tested in thirteen countries, including the United Sates. More than twelve thousand women betweem the ages of sixteen and twenty six were monitored for an average of two years. The results were conclusive: twenty one of the women who recieved a placebo during the trial developed the cellular abnormalities that are associated with cancer and other illnesses. Not one of those in the vaccinated group did. Another vaccine, which is being developed by GlaxoSmithKline, promises to be just as effective.

Even in the age of molecular medicine, such unqualified successes are rare. "This is a cancer vaccine, and an immensely effective one, " the Nobel laureate David Baltimore told me. "We should be proud and excited. It has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives every year."

So why do Republicans want these women to die? For what cause? Read on:

To prevent infection with HPV, and to mimimize the risk of cervical cancer, girls would need inoculations before becoming sexually active. ... Vaccinations for contagious diseases like measles and mumps are required before a child can enter public school. That won't be the case with the HPV vaccine, however. The Bush administration, its allies on Capitol Hill, and the religious base of the Republican Party are opposed to mandatory HPV vaccinations. They prefer to rely on education programs that promote abstinence from sexual activity, and see the HPV vaccine as a thread to that policy.

Although the abstinence racket does provide a way for the Christianists to suckle at the Treasury's teat, there's no evidence that it works:

Abstinence programs often fail. In one recent study, researchers at Columbia and Yale found that though virginity "pledge" programs helped many participants delay sex, eighty-eight percent of those who took such pledges and had sex before the end of the study did do before marriage. When it came to preventing sexually transmitted diseases, students in the programs fared no better than those in the control group.

Religious [SIC] conservatives are unapologetic; not only do they believe that mass use of an HPV vaccine or the availability of emergency contraception will encourage adolescents to engage in unacceptable sexual behavior, some have even stated that they would feel similarly about an HIV vaccine, should one become available.

[David Baltimore:] "We are talking about basic public health now. What moral precepts allow us to think that the risk of death is a price worth paying to encourage abstinence as the only approach to sex?"

I suppose it's fair for the Republicans to ask their own daughters to die for their so-called religious beliefs--but is it fair for them to ask your daughter to die?


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