Bachmann on Vaccines, Mental Retardation and Choice


Saying that the US’s pre-1960s immigration policies (such as the  Asian Exclusion Act) worked “very, very well” wasn’t the only “noteworthy” thing Michele Bachmann said at Monday night’s CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential candidates’ debate. In criticizing Texas Gov. Rick Perry over his executive order that would have mandated vaccination for state schoolgirls against human papillomavirus, a cause of cervical cancer, Bachmann voiced fears about giving children vaccines that sounded mighty familiar to parents of autistic children and others who’ve been saying till we’re beyond blue in the face for the past several years, no, vaccines or something in vaccines do not cause autism.

Here’s what Bachmann said Monday at the debate:

I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. And to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest.

Little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do-over. The parents don’t get a do-over. …

I’m offended for all the little girls and the parents that didn’t have a choice. That’s what I’m offended for.

While noting her use of “slight creepy imagery of a rapist state government,” the Atlantic Wire commented that she was “still on safe territory” as Gardasil, the vaccine under scrutiny, has been ”linked to blood clots and the neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome.” Vaccines have side effects but these do not include autism — as many, including celebrity Jenny McCarthy have claimed while citing conspiracy theories about “Big Pharma” and the CDC — and they do not include mental retardation, contrary to what Bachmann said in an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today show Tuesday morning. Said Bachmann:

I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter. It can have very dangerous side effects.

Reading this was simply déjà vu all over to me. Bachmann’s account of what the Tampa mother said closely parallels the narratives of parents who claim that a vaccine or something in a vaccine caused their child to become autistic (here is an example). Her comment was yet more scaremongering about vaccines that, as Dr. Paul Offit described in his 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search For a Cure, has been going on since there’s been public health campaigns to vaccinate people. Bachmann’s claims not only echo those of parents of autistic children like the Rev. Lisa Sykes, but of anti-vaccine crusaders whose underlying concern was to make sure the government did not infringe on people’s personal rights.

Two bioethics professors, Steven Miles of the University of Minnesota and Art Caplan, the director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, have offered rewards ($1000 and $10,000) if the Tampa woman who made the HPV vaccine-mental retardation claim to Bachmann will come forward with “medical proof,” says the Star-Tribune. The American Academy of Pediatrics was quick to release a statement in which its president, Dr. O. Marion Burton, said that

The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation. There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record.

Mindful of the lasting, inaccurate connection in the public mind that vaccines can somehow “contribute” to autism, the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership‘s spokesman Evan Siegfried told Politico’s Ben Smith:

“Congresswoman Bachmann’s decision to spread fear of vaccines is dangerous and irresponsible… There is zero credible scientific evidence that vaccines cause mental retardation or autism.”

Even Rush Limbaugh criticized Bachmann, says the Guardian, which points out that Bachmann recorded no opposition to the mandatory use of the Hepatitis B vaccination in Minnesota, where she served in the state legislature for five years:

Michele Bachmann, she might have blown it today. Well, not blown it – she might have jumped the shark today. If she’d just left it alone on this vaccination thing from last night.

She’s now out saying that this Gardasil drug now causes mental retardation. Somebody in the audience came up to her and told her that – that’s jumping the shark on this. There’s no evidence that the vaccine causes mental retardation. That’s a shame.

As the Atlantic Wire observes, conservatives were not so happy to hear Bachmann wading — sloshing — into making conspiracy-theory-laced claims about vaccines:

“The most charitable analysis,” Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey says, is that Bachmann “got duped into repeating a vaccine-scare urban legend on national television.” Slublog tweets, “Yeah, fantastic. Let’s become the Jenny McCarthy party.”

It’s possible, though, that they’re already the Jenny McCarthy party. At the debate, Bachmann prefaced her fears about the HPV vaccine by asserting “I’m a mom.” That’s exactly the familiar “I walk in your shoes, I know your pain” stance that McCarthy used in her book Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey In Healing Autism about “treating” her son’s autism and when she became a frequent presence at rallies to “Green Our Vaccines” and a spokesperson about experimental biomedical “treatments” for autism. What really offends Bachmann is that “the little girls and the parents …  didn’t have a choice” to say no to the HPV vaccine: Her reasons for bringing up the HPV vaccine were only superficially about public health, and all about saying that Americans need the government interfering less in their lives.

Sound familiar?


Related Care2 Coverage

Morning Mix: Will HPV Derail Perry?

Vaccines Don’t Cause Autism, Are Generally Safe

Anti-Vaccine Crusader Wakefield Banned from Practicing Medicine

Photo by Gage Skidmore


Leisa Bailey
Leisa Bailey4 years ago

She has no clue what she's talking about! Vaccines & mental retardation?

Mit W.
Mit Wes5 years ago

Here's a thought.

What if a company develops a substance that proves to save 1 million lives for every 10 million people that take it once but, itself, will kill 10 people for every 10 million that take it? In addition, this company will realize a profit of $50.00 per dose. The powers of the world agreed, though, this substance will only be distributed if you, and only you, say so. You can say so at any time, but once you did, you cannot stop it.

Would you give the go-ahead? If not right away, how long would you wait, if ever ?

Anna M.
Anna M.5 years ago

Though I am no fan of Bachmann, and certainly question the validity of a claim that a vaccination caused retardation, I actually agree with her on one very important point, and that is that the government should have no right to mandate vaccinations. None at all. You should never be forced against your will to be injected or to have your child injected with a foreign substance, vaccine or otherwise. It is a basic violation of ones body. Period. It's not about politics, because otherwise, I can't stand the woman.

rita b.
Rita B.5 years ago

(the rest of my post)
These are also the same companies whose most profitable drugs will soon be far less profitable because their patent has run out, who stand to make billions from mandated vaccines, who have illegally tested drugs on helpless prisoners and children in third world countries. Again all of this approved by our revolving door agencies.

Bachman and Perry are not the real issue, the real issue is whether you want to put your trust in greedy drug companies and bought out agencies who have time and time again showed their total disregard for human life and animal suffering.

rita b.
Rita B.5 years ago

I would like to see someone responsible on this site write an article about vaccines taking ALL the known facts and studies into account. Keep in mind that the majority of studies are paid for by the drug companies.

There is a group called SaneVax who have specifically studied the Guardisil vaccine which is the one being debated in this article. They had numerous samples of the vaccine taken from around the world and had them tested. They found every single sample was contaminated with recombinant DNA. The drug company specifially stated in their promotional material that there was no rDNA in their vaccine! Lie number 1. You can go to the SaneVax site for more details. They are scientifically based group and not oppossed to all types of vaccinations.

Also, check out Natural which has collected many interviews with responsible scientists and doctors. In a recent interview Dr. Horowitz a former vaccine researcher for Merck admits that their vaccines were contaminated with leukemia, SV40 and cancer viruses that cause tumors.

The companies who make these vaccines are the same companies who gave us many prescription drugs once approved safe by the FDA and now pulled from the market for causing many deaths and long lasting health problems.

These are also the same companies whose most profitable drugs will soon be far less profitable because their patent has run out, who stand to make billions from mandated vaccines, who have illegally tested drugs on helple

Mara C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Are Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin fraternal twins seperated at birth???? Bachmann's opinions are as frightening as Palin's! Even scarier, is the fact that some people actually believe the nonsense that spews from her mouth.
A doctor I worked for, years ago, was approached by the state to send them demographics w/o names, of students seen and treated for STD's. The towns covered were the wealthier towns in the county, with excellent school systems. The biggest group we saw were High Schoolers who deveoped HPV after casual sexual encounters with other students. This was in the 1980's. The connection to cervical cancer had not been made yet. I think that the vaccine should be highly recommended, but it should be up to the parents to decide if the student is under 18 years of age. After that, it should be the student's choice. Of course, there are areas where students graduate with a 6th grade reading level. These areas might need a bit more persuading that the vaccine is a good thing. By the way...Back then, the term Human Papilloma Virs was not generally used. We called a spade a spade...genital warts (and they are not pretty)!

Kristina P.
Tina P.5 years ago

I don't agree with mandating gardasil. HPV is not the same as other communicable diseases it's sexually transmitted (though I'm not sure if it's exclusively transmitted that way). You can choose NOT to risk transmitting it by not having sex if you want. Measles for instance is different there's not much you can do to avoid spreading it. Not that HPV isn't a good thing to get vaccinated against I just think choice in this area is a good idea. Now as for Bachmann, she's an idiot and a loony toons no matter what. It's weird she thinks choice is important when it comes to vaccines but not to other areas of reproductive health or in sexual identity.

K s Goh
KS Goh5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Debra M.
Debra G.5 years ago

Standing up for a child's rights is not what Bachmann is about. Don't fool yourself. This hypocrite is only out for political gain, purely and simply. I've come to realize that the Republican Party, and the Tea Party, are tools for the uber rich, and definitely do not want to work for the people. I believe that they think of the American people on the whole as dupes. If they did care, if they were true Christians, they would not be so quick to negate all of the words of Christ. If they cared about Americans, they would not be so quick to be bought by the puppet masters, Koch, Murdoch, and the other billionaires who only care for profit, and greed. Power is doing its number on this party of the wealthy, and anyone who thinks they care about little girls getting the vaccine over getting votes by the easily mislead, is, well, easily mislead.

Maarja L.
Maarja L.5 years ago

From what I hear, you can opt out. It's not really as if you're dragged to a doctor kicking and screaming.