[SEB Guest Post] Schools deny girls cervical cancer jabs on religious grounds.

It’s been almost three years (!) since I’ve written a Guest Post for SEB, but a recent news story here in the UK prompted me to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write something.

Over here in the UK, some religious schools have opted out of offering free HPV vaccines to their students. HPV – the Human Papillomavirus – is linked to as many as 70% of cases of cervical cancer and is therefore offered, free of charge, to girls aged 12 and 13. Around 1000 women die from cervical cancer each year, so this vaccine has the potential to save hundreds of lives. And normally, it is up to individual parents’ to opt their children out, but these schools have made the decision to opt out of the vaccine for all of their students.

The HPV vaccine is controversial – not because of any side effects, but because HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection. Consequently, some parents opt their children out as they do not want to encourage sexual promiscuity, or feel that because their religion forbids sexual intercourse before marriage that this is incompatible with their faith.

The key problem is that a number of these schools have not informed local doctors that they have chosen to opt out. Consequently, should a child’s parent actually want their child to have the vaccine, it is not subsequently being offered by their doctor and so some children may miss out.

What is laughable are some of the reasons given by the schools for opting out, such as:

“pupils follow strict Christian principles, marry within their own community and do not practise sex outside marriage”

Because we know how likely that is. Regular SEB readers will know that abstinence-only sex education is not effective and actually results in a higher rate of unprotected sex – and consequently puts both men and women at risk of contracting the virus. Although the vaccination programme only targets girls, men can carry the virus and it while it frequently results in no adverse symptoms, carriers are at a heightened risk of other cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some handy information if you want to read more.

Should schools be allowed to put the health of their students at risk in this way, in the course of religious observance? And if so, should such schools be forced to make the effort to provide parents with the information they need to seek alternative sources of the vaccine?

6 thoughts on “[SEB Guest Post] Schools deny girls cervical cancer jabs on religious grounds.

  1. Odd thing about religion, even if there’s a book to go by, at some level you get to “It’s whatever the throbbing member, or noxious orifice in chief says it is.”. HPV unknown in Roman times? No problem, we’ll invent a policy. Pity they won’t use that same intellectual freedom in a positive way, like perhaps, helping someone, except for a few survivors of a more civilized era.
    Back to the question, I would think even a 1st century CE Rabbi might approve of something with the potential prevent grave illness, so those that claim to be his followers would do well to rationalize approval of HPV vaccine, after all, it protects a woman from a virus that can be acquired by her Husbands ill choices, as well.
    BTW, ever considered a point-by-point comparison of contemporary conservatism and the teachings of the late Anton LaVey? There might be a prospect of hilarity, and apoplexy.

  2. Gardasil is a wonderful idea in action. I just started my 11 year old daughter on the first round. The thing is that it does not work if the person has been introduced to the human papilloma virus before. So yes, she needs to be a virgin. They are also saying now that boys should also get these shots. The issue they have is with virginity. I do not think that they are meaning to insinuate that their girls are not virgins. So I am betting that the spectre of sexual promiscuity they want to hide behind faith is that of men.

  3. We atheists lack Christian wisdom. The Culture of Life requires that these girls die, because if they engage in premarital sex and live they will contribute to the Culture of Death. Death is life, life is death; why is that so hard to comprehend?

    Neil; should schools be required to provide information? I think that question sums up what is wrong with our society, and what gives secularists so many headaches.

  4. @ Positive:
    In my view, schools should not be allowed to opt out all of their students; they should let individual parents make that decision. However, should the schools opt out all of their students, then yes, the schools should be required to provide information to the parents, stating that they have been opted out and where the students can get vaccines from elsewhere.

  5. Certainly. I just love the notion of schools that are afraid of putting out information, which is allegedly why they are supposed to exist in the first place. Schools outside of Texas, anyway.

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