That did not take long.
I suggested Gov. Rick Perry was going to take a bludgeoning from Rep. Michelle Bachmann over his executive order mandating the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, for all girls entering sixth grade. Evidently, his campaign handlers thought the same thing. On the day, he announced his candidacy for President, he reversed course.
For years, Gov. Rick Perry has taken flak for his 2007 attempt to require girls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, the most commonly sexually transmitted disease and the principal cause of cervical cancer. At the risk of angering fellow conservatives, Perry has always insisted he did the right thing.
That unapologetic approach changed this weekend.
A few hours after unveiling his campaign for president, Perry began walking back from one of the most controversial decisions of his more-than-10-year reign as Texas governor. Speaking to voters at a backyard party in New Hampshire, Perry said he was ill-informed when he issued his executive order, in February 2007, mandating the HPV vaccine for all girls entering sixth grade, unless their parents completed a conscientious-objection affidavit form. The vaccine, Merck & Co.’s Gardasil, would have protected against the forms of HPV that cause about 70 percent of all cervical cancer, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
“I signed an executive order that allowed for an opt-out, but the fact of the matter is that I didn’t do my research well enough to understand that we needed to have a substantial conversation with our citizenry,” Perry said at the Manchester, N.H., event in response to an audience question about the HPV controversy, according to ABC News’ The Note.
This reversal is a distinct change from his prior “unapologetic approach” of the executive order, just last year.
Until now, Perry never yielded to opponents who said he should have handled the issue differently rather than through a unilateral executive order. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison tried to make it an issue in her gubernatorial campaign to unseat him in 2010. In a January 2010 debate, Perry defended his decision to issue the executive order. It was not a mistake — “no sir, not from my position,” he said. “I stand proudly by my pro-life position. . .”
. . . Later, in a September 2010 interview after an East Texas gubernatorial campaign swing, Perry was still sticking to his guns that his decision to issue the executive order was the right thing to do.
Bachmann will still use this and now she can add flip-flopping on pro-family issues to his resume.
The primary beneficiary of Perry’s flip-flop over this issue is not Bachmann, but Mitt Romney. Perry just gutted a potent weapon against Mitt Romney in a GOP primary. Romney, of course, had been pro-choice his entire career until he decided to run for President. Perry just gave Romney the best answer to that attack. If Perry attacks Romney’s flip-flopping position on abortion, Romney can simply retort: “I did not do my research at the time and study the issue well enough, just like you changed your mind on Gardasil, I change my mind after closer study.”
Huge victory for Romney in the GOP primary.