In response to my suggestion that state Sen. Debbie Halvorson educate about destructive behaviors that cause the sexually transmitted disease HPV rather than evade them to simply mandate a shot to avoid just one of many consequences, she told the New York Times Saturday, "I'm offended by their ignorance, but if I have to take a hit to educate people, I’m willing to do it."
"Educate people." The crux of the debate is about which to educate, the virus or the vaccine? After all the flak, Halvorson is still trying to ignore the former for the latter.
"Obviously abstinence is best," Halvorson stated in today's State Journal-Register. "I'm not preaching to have anybody go out and have wild, unprotected sex. I'm talking about being able to eliminate cervical cancer. It has nothing to do with sex. It has everything to do with cancer."
Excuse me? The sole cause of cervical cancer is HPV. The sole cause. How can that have nothing to do with sex?
As one person commented to the SJ-R piece, "If nothing else, at least this controversy will make people finally wake up and recognize that cervical cancer is, by and large, a Sexually Transmitted Disease. I know a lot of people here like to scoff at the idea of saving sex until marriage and not having multiple partners, but in light of this disease's means of transmission, maybe abstinence isn't such a quaint idea after all."
I have a quiz. The following blurb about Halvorson comes from the Winter 2006 Stateline Midwest, a publication by the Midwestern Office of The Council of State Governments. Does the article "educate" even once on how to avoid cervical cancer? Instead, doesn't it purposefully tiptoe around it?
IL Sen. Debbie Halvorson got the shock of her life when she was told that precancerous cells had been detected in results from a Pap test.
Panicked, she had a complete hysterectomy at age 44. Had she known more about cervical cancer, Halvorson says she may not have undergone such an extensive surgery.
That personal experience led Halvorson to sponsor legislation in 2004 creating the Illinois Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force, which aims to raise awareness about the disease.
The volunteer group also identifies high-risk populations (those living in rural areas as well as low-income and minority women) and looks for ways to get them preventive care.
In addition, Illinois, along with Michigan and Minnesota, is taking part in the End Cervical Cancer in Our Lifetime campaign launched this summer by the National Lieutenant Governors Association.
The 10-state program urges women to get screened for the disease and provides information packets about cancer prevention.
Halvorson and Michigan Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom (sponsor of the legislation in her state requirng vaccination against the virus that can cause cervical cancer) are active members of Women in Government, an organization of female state legislators.
That bipartisan group is active in encouraging cervical cancer prevention in the states. More information on those efforts is available at www.womeningovernment.org.
"I don't care if [cervical cancer] kills just one person," Halvorson says. "If this is something we can get rid of, we should do it."
The Illinois Cervical Cancer Prevention Task Force? Read its press release. Not once is HPV mentioned. The prevention? Screening.
The End Cervical Cancer in Our Lifetime campaign? Read Pat Quinn's press release. HPV is only called a "high risk" virus. The prevention? Screening.
These legislators do their public a gross disservice by keeping them in the dark about the cause of cervical cancer, the sexually transmitted disease HPV.