Such is the state of the Republican Party these days that the greatest offense its candidates could find in Texas governor Rick Perry's political history is his interest in saving the lives of girls and young women.
In 2007, Perry signed an executive order to have Texas girls 12 years old and older immunized against human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus is known to lead to cervical cancer, and the vaccine significantly decreases the chance of getting this cancer.
Presidential candidate Michelle Bachman had this to say about the decision.
"I'm a mom and I'm a mom of three children and to have them make 12-year old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. That is a violation of a liberty interest."
So, Ms. Bachmann, have you had your children vaccinated against polio, measles, small pox, or tetanus? Or, as a mother, did you leave your children vulnerable to these disease?
There are those who do not want their children to be vaccinated against HPV because they do not want to encourage their children to have pre-marital sex.
Let's set aside the fact that one can get the virus from a marital partner who turns out to be less than fully faithful, or from rape, and focus on this argument for a moment.
Morally, this argument shares a lot of moral ground with the practice in some culture of killing (usually by stoning) women and girls caught having sex outside of marriage. It even shares the fact that these executions sometimes involve the victims of rape. The one difference is that, in those cultures, the guardians of household "honor" are willing to kill the women and girls themselves and take responsibility for their actions. American honor killings by proxy involve setting things up for a virus to do the honor-killing, so the defenders of family "honor" can say, "I didn't do this."
However, we can trace the fact of the woman's death to facts about the moral character of those who did not care to protect her from that death.
"But I love my daughter," many of these defenders of honor would say. "How dare you say that I do not."
I would bet that parents in other cultures who intentionally kill their children for reasons of honor also claim to love their children. Indeed, they might even say that love is what motivated them to do the killing.
Hey, whatever helps you sleep at night, right?
I wonder if Bachmann recognizes that these liberty interests she talks about have limits. Parents have no liberty to best or rape their children. Nor do they have a right to lock their children in cages. Hey are obligated to see that their children get an education and are properly fed.
Children do foolish things, and one of the obligations of a parent is to make sure that the immature and poorly considered actions of a child do not get her maimed or killed. It is not a part of this description to cheer for or carry out her killing.
And now, let us bring back the fact that, in some cases, the woman or child has not done anything foolish. In some cases, she was the victim of a violent crime or of another person's careless disregard for her welfare.
Perhaps Bachmann's protest is not against forcing parents to protect their children from a potentially fatal illness, but the fact that Perry acted through an executive order rather than through the legislature.
I would agree - Perry should have gone through the legislature. he should have fought for it openly and he should have won.
However, the Texas legislature made clear their preference for honor-killings by viral proxy over child welfare when they passed revoking the executive order. Perry signed the law, saying that the legislature clearly had the votes to override the veto. This tells us how important honor-killing by proxy is to the people of Texas.
Now, Bachmann has added phony claims about the immunization causing mental retardation. I'll have more to say on what this tells us about Bachmann's moral character - and Perry's in my next post.