The PJ Tatler

Video: The Story Behind Rick Perry's Gardasil Mandate

Fox aired this interview earlier today, with two friends of Heather Burcham. She died at the age of 31 due to cervical cancer, but in her last months she became an advocate for Gardasil, the 100% effective HPV vaccine. Gov. Rick Perry and Heather Burcham became friends in her dying months. Though he was governor at the time, Perry made time to check in on Burcham and visited her away from the glare of the press.

Watch the interview with Burcham’s friends, and decide for yourself if anything that Michele Bachmann has said about Perry, crony capitalism and Gardasil makes any sense.

She was deeply religious, quick-witted, loving, with a quirky sense of humor; and she was determined to save other young women. Her passion for a cause made her a “Person of the Week” on ABC’s “World News” program in 2007. Heather likely would have been shouting from the rooftops in frustration, listening to the current political debate about the HPV vaccine.

Her words to ABC News in 2007 still resonate, in light of the current debate in which this one face of the disease has been lost amid the political rhetoric.

“I don’t want to have died in vain,” she said. “I don’t want my life to have no purpose whatsoever, and if I can help spread the word about cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine, then I haven’t lived in vain.”

None of this makes the mandate ideal policy, and critizing Perry on the executive order is fair game. But crony capitalism? It’s easy to forget during the course of our blogging day that the accusations hurled back and forth involve real people. Politics should not leave us incapable of being ashamed for going too far in criticizing each other.

Until you’ve seen a special photograph, Craig Wilson says you don’t know the whole story of Rick Perry’s HPV vaccine decision.

“She’s happy as hell. I mean, she is just unbelievably ecstatic,” Wilson said. “Here she is on a beautiful ranch somewhere, riding on a motorcycle, which she’s never really done, with the governor of the state of Texas.”

The guy driving the motorcycle is Governor Rick Perry. The young woman on the back is Houstonian Heather Burcham, who was at that moment just 31 years old and a few months away from dying of cervical cancer.

Heather said in an interview prior to her death, “I feel like I’m not going in vain, because I can tell others about it.”