It makes a great spread for toast, too.

Via Kip comes the disturbing but unsurprising news that Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed¹ an executive order that has no coherent public policy justification:

By issuing an executive order, Perry apparently sidesteps opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents’ rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way parents raise their children.

Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade — meaning, generally, girls ages 11 and 12 — will have to get Gardasil, Merck & Co.’s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.

“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry said in announcing the order.

“If there are diseases in our society that are going to cost us large amounts of money, it just makes good economic sense, not to mention the health and well-being of these individuals to have those vaccines available,” he said.

As Kip pointed out, becoming infected with HPV does not guarantee cervical cancer. All this will do for public health is prevent a few cases of HPV infection. His grandiose rhetoric to the contrary, Gov. Perry has done nothing quite as dramatic as he claims. Or rather, the dramatic result is not what he now claims.

Kip also pointed out that the key factor in this debate and whether it makes sense to make vaccination mandatory is that “HPV is not casually contagious.” There is no reason to mandate such an action. Boys are not going to enter the doors of George W. Bush Middle School, sneeze, and infect every any girls with HPV. This is over-reaction with no reasonable basis.

The obvious parallel, of course, is infant male circumcision, which has been justified because it appears to have an impact on HPV transmission. Whether or not that prevention is substantial is irrelevant. The core principle when making a permanent change to someone’s body is medical need. Medical need rarely exists in infant male circumcision; likewise, there is no medical need here to force such an action on young girls. There is no public health basis and a highly subjective personal health basis. Behavior can be taught, and like boys with the behavioral negatives that circumcision supposedly cures, some understanding of the individual affected should influence the decision.

This is naked rent-seeking for Merck poorly disguised as social engineering by Gov. Perry. He delivers millions of customers to Merck. What is he getting in return? Gov. Perry should be ashamed.

¹ Note the wonderful headline to the AP story: Texas Gov. orders anti-cancer vaccine. Gardasil is an anti-HPV vaccine. There is an important difference. Gov. Perry is not mandating an anti-cancer vaccine, no matter how well-intentioned he believes his action to be. It’s being sold with that exaggeration to make it more marketable. Unfortunately, there are individuals involved who can’t consent to such politically warm and fuzzy experimentation on their bodies.