Last week, it was announced that a new vaccine to protect against cervical cancer would be offered to 12 year old girls at school. This struck me as an eminently sensible idea, as it could save 500-600 lives each year, as almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and this vaccine will protect against the strains that cause 70% of those cases.
But, there's always someone who thinks that saving those lives isn't really important. (From the Evening Mail, 26/10/7)
A spokesman warned the vaccination programme would encourage young people to have more sex, reduce condom use and lead to more teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. National director Stephen Green predicted girls would be given the vaccine "behind their parents' backs". He said: "Since the vaccine works best before the onset of sexual activity, they will be treating these girls, to put it bluntly, like tarts, saying they expect them to be sexually incontinent, lacking in self-respect and the basic morality required to keep their virginity. The message is one of despair, disrespect and low expectations. Anyone giving this drug to a girl is telling her: 'I think you are a slag'."Oh - hello Stephen, self-appointed spokesmoron for a tiny number of religious bigots. This man must need regular supplies of oxygen, such is the height of his moral ground. Fortunately, if he's opposed to something, there's a reasonable chance that I'm on the other side.
This is the same man who described the blanket ban on abortion imposed in Nicaragua as heroic. An alternative view (from the godless, liberal Grauniad) begs to differ on an heroic law that forbids abortion in all cases - including rape, incest or life-threatening conditions. An heroic law that has so far seen the deaths of at least 82 women in a year, including Maria.
What makes it even worse is that an ectopic pregnancy is one of the few legal reasons for termination - as the foetus is not in the womb. Sadly, so few doctors understand this or are prepared to risk prosecution. With that sort of track record, Stephen isn't perhaps the best man to provide medical advice. He even ties the new vaccines into the myths about MMR, which have sustained even through detailed scrutiny of vaccinated children.
During a visit to Managua in February she felt unwell and visited a hospital. The news was devastating. She was pregnant - and it was ectopic, meaning the foetus was growing outside the womb and not viable. The longer González remained pregnant, the greater the risk of rupture, haemorrhaging and death.
What González did next was - when you understand what life in Nicaragua is like these days - utterly rational. She walked out of the hospital, past the obstetrics and gynaecological ward, past the clinics and pharmacies lining the avenues, packed her bag, kissed her aunts goodbye, and caught a bus back to her village. She summoned two neighbouring women - traditional healers - and requested that they terminate the pregnancy in her shack. Without anaesthetic or proper instruments it was more akin to mutilation than surgery, but González insisted. The haemhorraging was intense, and the agony can only be imagined. It was in vain. Maria died. "We heard there was a lot of blood, a lot of pain," says Esperanza Zeledon, 52, one of the Managua aunts.
Actually, an argument that it isn't safe would be sustainable, but that's not Stephen's main thrust. (Ahem.) He reckons that giving the vaccine will encourage young people to have sex.
It has been a number of years since I was young, but I remain to be convinced that the young need encouragement to have sex. Look Steve - leave this to the grown-ups, you continue with your inexplicable campaign against homosexuality.
As I said, a handy moral compass.
See also the hilarious Nadine Dorries, who has become so frit that she's scrapped one of the defining elements of any blog - the comments. (Much like Deirdre Alden has done - can't risk anyone disagreeing with a leading light of the Tombstone group, can we?).