Bachmann’s words are irresponsible. Even moreso when you consider that she isn’t just some Jill Schmoe, but an elected official.
Last night, carrying the mantle of fear and ignorance that are hallmarks of anti-vaccine activists, Bachmann denounced Texas Governor Rick Perry for mandating vaccines for schoolgirls, starting in the sixth grade, against the human papillomavirus.
“I’m offended for all the little girls and parents that didn’t have a choice,” she said. (Actually, any parent can opt out on a child’s behalf.) She said that girls who were harmed by the vaccine don’t get “a mulligan.” Later, the offended Bachmann ventured deeper into scientific illiteracy, telling Fox News that a woman had approached her after the debate and told her that she had a daughter who had “suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine.”
This is a particularly irresponsible way to speak, in part because it raises the memory of the deadly fiasco caused by the British physician Andrew Wakefield when he asserted that vaccines caused autism. That assertion has been withdrawn, Wakefield has been disgraced, and, after scores of studies, no correlation between vaccinations and autism has ever been found. But vaccine rates plummeted and diseases like measles and whooping cough, once nearly vanquished, came roaring back. The fear Wakefield caused has killed many children.
Hours later, Bachmann doubles down on her harmful statements.
This is a byproduct of the right’s systematic elevation of ignorance.