Authors: Jeanette Torres
(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Although Rick Perry said at a debate Thursday night that he was “lobbied” by a 31-year-old woman suffering from cervical cancer to require young girls to receive the HPV vaccine, he did not meet the cancer patient until after he had already issued his executive order mandating the vaccine.
It was a rhetorical high point for Perry at the debate in Florida, when he put a personal face on the story and pointed to his friendship with a woman who later died of cervical cancer.
“I got lobbied on this issue. I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had stage 4 cervical cancer,” said Perry. “I spent a lot of time with her. She came by my office. She talked to me about this program. I readily admitted we should have had an opt-in but I don’t know what part of opt out most parents don’t get and the fact is I erred on the side of life and I will always err on the side of life as a governor, as a president of the United States.”
The woman Rick Perry mentioned in the Republican debate Thursday was Heather Burcham. But what Perry left out in his answer was that he met her after he issued his executive order.
Perry issued the executive order requiring sixth grade girls receive the HPV vaccine in early February of 2007, and he met Burcham while she was lobbying the Texas legislature to uphold the governor’s executive order. The legislature ultimately ruled against Burcham and Perry and did away with the vaccine mandate.
As first reported by Ted Oberg with ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston, the pair struck up a friendship despite the Texas legislature revoking the governor’s mandate. Perry invited Burcham to a ranch, rode motorcycles with her and even sat at her bedside during her final days. Burcham died in July 2007.
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