Study Debunks Religious-Right Claim That HPV Vaccine Will Lead to Teen Promiscuity

Ever since drug-makers announced the availability of a vaccine against the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical and other forms of cancer, religious-righters have shrieked that the shot will turn girls practically into harlots. In 2007, for example, Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams sharply criticized Gov. Rick Perry for issuing an executive order mandating that sixth-grade girls get the vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV):

“We’re very unhappy because it’s not a crisis, because parental rights are being usurped and we believe young girls are being experimented upon. Would they be more promiscuous? Chances are very good that they would be.”

Actually, no. A new study published today in the journal Pediatrics finds that girls vaccinated around age 11 were not more likely to engage in more sexual activity than peers who didn’t get the vaccine. From the New York Times:

“I’ll now be able to use this study as a piece of evidence to show them that it’s not going to give girls a license to sexual activity,” said Dr. Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

Dr. Jonathan Temte, a family doctor in Wisconsin who is chairman of the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, said he tells skeptical parents in his practice to think of vaccination no differently from wearing a helmet to ride a bike or play football.

“By providing this protection, are we encouraging kids to take more risky behaviors?” he said. “I don’t believe so.”

Critics — including mainstream groups and lawmakers — made other arguments against Gov. Perry’s mandate, including that it was a sneaky gift to vaccine-maker Merck. Merck’s political action committee had supported the governor’s re-election campaign and employed his former chief of staff as a lobbyist.

But religious-right groups like Texas Eagle Forum have also worked for decades to scare parents with absurd claims about how sex education, contraception and, now, the HPV vaccine are all gateways to teen promiscuity. We don’t expect that this newest research will stop them from lying to parents about that.