South Carolina governor Nikki Haley – no stranger to the sometimes unpleasant consequences of [alleged] sexual activity – is at it again, yesterday vetoing legislation that would have provided a free, optional HPV vaccine to every seventh-grade girl in the state. Someone should explain to her that pappillomavirii can’t vote.
According to the CDC, the HPV vaccine not only prevents genital warts and the spread of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection; it also protects against cervical cancer, which afflicts 12,000 and kills 4,000 women per year in the United States. The National Cancer Institute of the NIH, which recommends that the vaccine be administered to women between the ages of 13 and 26 who have not already been vaccinated, estimates that HPV vaccination can reduce the incidence of lethal cervical cancer by as much as two-thirds.
Seizing on the opportunity to significantly reduce cancer deaths for the relatively modest cost of a vaccination would seem like a no-brainer. South Carolina’s House of Representatives agreed, approving the bill by a 63-40 vote with bipartisan support, and the state Senate was even more emphatic, passing the initiative by a whopping 40-2 margin. Not so fast, said Haley, who must figure that cervical cancer is another thing women don’t care about. Defending the move in her veto message, Haley explained that providing seventh-graders with an HPV vaccine is a precursor to “another taxpayer funded healthcare mandate.” There are so many fallacies in this remark, it’s hard to pick a place to start.
It’s not really clear what Haley means by “another taxpayer funded healthcare mandate,” but let’s assume she’s referring to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That legislation isn’t a taxpayer funded mandate, or really a taxpayer funded anything for that matter. It’s a law that, in exchange for prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions, will require individuals not already covered by insurance plans to purchase minimal, essential health insurance coverage or to face a civil penalty. Such insurance coverage is only “taxpayer funded” in the tautological sense, in that since we are all “taxpayers,” anything that any of us purchases is “taxpayer funded.” But in that sense, even the nice shoes on Governor Haley’s feet were “taxpayer funded,” let alone the over $127,000 of public money she spent during a week in Europe looking for “jobs, jobs, jobs,” so she mustn’t have meant it that way.
Whatever Haley meant, it’s self-evident that a taxpayer funded mandate of any kind is an oxymoron. A mandate by itself doesn’t require funding; it is merely a command that its subjects act a certain way. For instance, who “funds” the mandate Nikki Haley signed requiring South Carolina voters to show photo ID at the polls? That’s a rhetorical question, so you needn’t respond – the answer is that Haley’s comments weren’t about a “mandate,” they were a cheap swipe at the healthcare reform bill now pending before the Supreme Court and a tired attempt to portray that bill’s most significant feature as “socialism.” Real socialists hate the individual mandate because forcing the public to buy private insurance is, obviously, the very opposite of socialism. But today’s republicans couldn’t care less what real socialists think, since labeling something as “socialist” is one of many conservative clichés they can hide behind to avoid meaningful policy discussion. Such is the prerogative of a political party whose base has become so unhinged that it resides in an ideological hall of mirrors.
And even if the Affordable Care Act did impose some sort of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system – which it doesn’t and is a long way from coming to fruition even if the democrats wanted it to – how could there be “another” one, as Haley seems to fear? Is it possible to impose socialism on top of socialism? Haley has trapped herself with her own vacuous rhetoric. She can’t, out of one side of her mouth, miscast Obamacare as having imposed socialized medicine on America, while simultaneously, out of the other, striking down new legislation on the grounds it could lead us to socialized medicine.
But I digress. The biggest problem with Haley’s comment is that the only thing providing seventh grade students with a free HPV shot is a “precursor” for is preventing the spread of HPV and its associated lethal cancers. Haley’s faulty slippery slope reasoning captures exactly what is wrong with the conservative movement in America today—it manifests a slavish devotion to the notion that if you give a liberal a cookie, he’s going to want a glass of milk, where “liberal” is defined to include anyone falling to the left of Glenn Beck on the political spectrum. Bipartisan cooperation or compromise be damned!
So, to protect glasses of milk across the Palmetto State, today we sacrifice womens’ (and little girls’) health. Well done, Nikki, and good luck with those national political aspirations… you filthy, shallow jackal.