- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2012

RICHMOND — The Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday gave preliminary approval to repealing a mandate that young girls receive a vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), known to cause cervical cancer, before they enter the sixth grade.

The hot-button issue quickly gained increased national attention last year after Texas Gov. Rick Perry was castigated for an executive order mandating the vaccine in Texas, which was eventually overridden by the state legislature. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who helped lead the charge against Mr. Perry, then received nearly universal criticism when she suggested after one Republican debate that the vaccine was linked to mental retardation.

“If this wasn’t an important issue to the citizens of the United States and this commonwealth, it would not have been such a focus of our presidential debate,” said the bill’s sponsor, Kathy J. Byron, Campbell Republican, who called the mandate a government intrusion into the private decision-making of parents and their children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the virus infects about 20 million people in the country, with 6.2 million cases each year.

The mandate, passed in 2007, contains a clause that allows parents to opt out of having their child receive the vaccine after they review information about the virus provided by the Board of Health. Ms. Byron’s bill would also rescind that portion of the law.

The House rejected an amendment from Delegate Christopher P. Stolle, Chesapeake Republican and a doctor, that would continue to offer the information to parents.

Delegate Joseph D. Morrissey, Richmond Democrat, sarcastically waved the letter State Health Commissioner Karen Remley sends to parents during the House floor debate in an attempt to exemplify the “onerous mandate” the bill would remove.

The measure has cleared the Republican-led House in the past, and with a different makeup of the state Senate it could receive a more favorable reception in the General Assembly’s upper chamber this year. It advanced to a final vote in the House that will likely take place Friday.