A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Texas legislators question legality of executive order mandating HPV vaccine

[JURIST] Two state legislators asked the attorney general of Texas [JURIST news archive] Wednesday to issue an opinion on the legality of Gov. Rick Perry's executive order [text] mandating that sixth-grade girls be vaccinated for the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) [US CDC fact sheet]. The lawmakers also requested that Attorney General Greg Abbott [official website] advise the legislature on actions it can take to override the executive order, which the governor issued last week [JURIST report]. One of the legislators, Sen. Jane Nelson (R) [official profile], has called on Perry to rescind the order. "The public has the right to testify on this issue, and the Legislature has a constitutional duty to be involved in this decision," Nelson said this week in a press release [text]. In response, a spokesman for Perry challenged lawmakers to take action [AP report], agreeing that legislation would take precedence over the executive order. A handful of bills [text] to that effect have already been introduced. Nevertheless, Perry's spokesman defended the order as a proper exercise of the governor's chief executive powers under the Texas Constitution [text].

Perry himself reiterated his support for the vaccine mandate this week in a statement [text] and in the annual State of the State Address [prepared text]. In the speech, the Republican governor said:

I understand the concern some of my good friends have about requiring this vaccine, which is why parents can opt out if they so choose.

But I refuse to look a young woman in the eye ten years from now who suffers from this form of cancer and tell her we could have stopped it, but we didn't. Others may focus on the cause of this cancer. I will stay focused on the cure. And if I err, I will err on the side of protecting life.
Texas is one of a number of states considering legislation [PJEPHL report] that would require the HPV vaccine for school-age girls or compel insurers pay for the expensive vaccine. The Houston Chronicle has more. The Dallas Morning News has additional coverage.

This report was prepared in partnership with the Pittsburgh Journal of Environmental and Public Health Law.

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