Rivals criticize Rick Perry over HPV vaccine order during debate

TAMPA, Fla. — Two of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s rivals criticized him at CNN’s Monday night debate for signing an executive order as governor of Texas in 2007 requiring young girls to receive a vaccination in order to prevent cervical cancer.

His order requiring girls to receive the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was overturned by the state legislature in Texas. But both Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum called the policy inappropriate during the tea party-themed debate on Monday night.

Perry on Monday said the order was a mistake.

“It was,” he said, responding to a question from debate moderator Wolf Blitzer. “And indeed, if I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently. I would have gone to the legislature, worked with them. But what was driving me was, obviously, making a difference about young people’s lives.”

Bachmann pounced.

“I’m a mom,” she said. “And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest.”

Perry went on to argue it wasn’t technically a mandate because “it had an opt-out.” (RELATED: Perry, Romney accuse each other of scaring seniors)

“At the end of the day,” he said, “this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that…you may criticize me about the way that I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life.”

Santorum also jumped into the debate to criticize Perry.

“There is no government purpose served for having little girls inoculated at the force and compulsion of the government,” he said. “This is big government run amok. It is bad policy, and it should not have been done.”


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