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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Vaccinating Your Daughter Does Not Mean Compromising Your Values

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Vaccinating Your Daughter Does Not Mean Compromising Your Values

Doug Mataconis has written a series of posts over at The Liberty Papers about whether or not the state should force parents to vaccinate their children. Perhaps the most controversial vaccine is the one which is supposed to inoculate young girls as young as 9 from the sexually transmitted HPV virus. As a libertarian, I am very conflicted on the proper role of the state on this issue. On the one hand we have the state, in some cases, mandating that parents vaccinate their pre-teen girls thus trampling on parental rights. On the other hand, we get back into the grey area of children’s rights (i.e. if a teenage girl wants the vaccine despite what her parents’ wishes are, whose ‘rights’ should prevail?).

For the purposes of this post, however; I want to put aside the question of whether or not the state should force parents to vaccinate their children and address the primary philosophical/religious objections of those who would choose not to vaccinate their pre-teen girls. There are some who do not believe in any type of vaccinations for their children and are at least consistent in their views. There is another group who is opposed to this particular vaccine (and have no qualms about other vaccines whether state mandated or not) because of the fact that HPV is transmitted sexually. The main objection seems to go along with the so-called ‘abstinence only’ mentality.

Most parents want to do what is in the best interests of their children and for the most part, those parents who do not want the HPV vaccine for their daughters are among those parents. Very few parents want to believe that their teenagers are sexually active and most parents want to do whatever they can to discourage their teenagers from having sex at least until they reach adulthood. Some parents believe that despite what they may have done whenever they were younger, despite the sexual messages which pervade our culture, and despite the typical behavior of their children’s peers that somehow, their exceptional parenting will penetrate their teen’s minds and respond with the desired results. If this is your view, then according to the CDC, you have about a 50/50 chance of being right…but why take the chance that your child is in the 50% who is sexually active? (Neal Boortz has an interesting theory on how to tell if your teenage girl is sexually active: smoking. According to his theory, if your daughter smokes she is also sexually active. I’m not sure if I agree with that or not but it’s a very interesting thought.)

Now let’s suppose that your teenage girl is not sexually active. No worries right? Ever heard of rape? If your concern is that by giving your teenage daughter the HPV vaccine you are somehow saying “it’s okay to have sex,” well here is your out. If you really are the exceptional parent you think you are you should be able to communicate that indeed you are not giving her permission to have sex but are trying to protect her. How terrible would you feel if your daughter was raped and contracted the HPV virus which ultimately lead to cervical cancer? You can still give your “abstinence until I’m dead” speech and point out the other risks of sexual activity that have no bearing on the HPV vaccine (pregnancy, AIDS, and other STDs).

However strong parents are in their convictions and however much time they have spent instilling certain values into their children, the fact remains that the children will ultimately make the choice on whether or not to have sex, smoke, drink alcohol, or do drugs. Parents with three teenagers may find three completely different responses to those values. Teenagers who stray from the path are not always the product of poor parenting. Even the most well behaved teenagers make mistakes on occasion.

I suppose some might argue that when their teenagers do make a mistake, they should suffer the consequences. Generally, I agree with that approach but we also must consider that although teenagers seem to be very mature at times, the part of the brain that perceives possible negative consequences is not fully formed. Teenagers do very stupid things because they often see themselves as invincible. Who among us did not do some very stupid things which could have put ourselves in the hospital or the morgue? This is not to excuse such behavior but we must realize that all teenagers will make some very bad decisions. The question is should the consequence be their very lives when the outcome could have been prevented by a responsible parent? Vaccinating your daughter with the HPV vaccine does not mean compromising your values.

Learn more about HPV at WebMD
About the HPV vaccine


Blogger T. F. Stern said...


I have no problem with inoculations, be they for TB, Small Pox or any other rational social issue to include cervical cancer spread through sexual contact. I do take issue with the way Gov. Perry did an end run with the program in Texas; bypassing the legislative branch. It puts a dark cloud of doubt that begs the question of how much money was passed under the table to get it pushed through in such a manner. Texas, ah Texas, never a dull moment in Texas politics.

9:32 PM  

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