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Sally Engelhart Headcut Credit: Prameet Kumar , Sally Engelhart

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) comment that the human papillomavirus vaccine causes “mental retardation,” is, well, retarded. (And I’m sorry, I really don’t like using that word, but she started it.)

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Bachmann has been all over the news lately for some pretty shocking public claims she’s made that the HPV vaccine is “very dangerous” and causes mental retardation.

It started when Bachmann criticized Gov. Rick Perry at a Republican presidential debate for making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young women in Texas (providing free, life-saving inoculations statewide — what an asshole). But it was the next morning on The Today Show that Bachmann really messed everything up. She told a story about a mother who came up to her after the debate and said, “Her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.”

And other than just causing me to have vivid fantasies about shaking Bachmann vigorously by her shoulders screaming, “WHY ARE YOU SO DUMB?!” Bachmann’s comments have done a lot of damage to America’s public health.

The thing is, there is not even one ounce of support for Bachmann’s claims that the HPV vaccine is dangerous. Countless agencies — the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Family Physicians, to name a few — have tried to hit back and assure the public of the outstanding safety record of Gardasil (a brand-name HPV vaccine). After being rigorously and continuously researched, there is literally zero evidence suggesting a link between the HPV vaccine and mental retardation. Bachmann is 100 percent talking out of her ass.

And props to one of Penn’s own Bioethics professors for calling her out on it. Director of Penn’s Center for Bioethics Art Caplan bet Bachmann $10,000 (in charity donations) that she could not produce the patient and substantiate her claim. And despite word of the bet buzzing around the news media as well as an email directed to Bachmann from Caplan, Bachmann — like a teenage girl being called out on her bullshit — pretended that she couldn’t hear him.

The silent treatment, Bachmann? That’s almost as low as fear mongering.

“She seemed willing to put women’s lives in jeopardy and that really got me mad,” Caplan said. “Its unethical to toy with women’s lives for political gain.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Rodney Willoughby, professor of Pediatrics at the Medical College of Wisconsin, explained that when celebrities or politicians speak negatively about vaccines, vaccination rates drop for about three to four years.

The HPV vaccine can prevent two major strains of HPV that contribute to about 70 percent of all cervical cancers. And out of the 12,000 cervical cancer cases seen each year in the United States alone, HPV causes about 4,000 deaths. So, Bachmann, you think that the HPV vaccine is linked to mental retardation? Well, I’m pretty sure that cancer is linked to death.

“I believe that [Bachmann] is responsible for the women who don’t get vaccinated because she scared them,” Caplan said. And if they die as a result, she’s responsible for that too, if you ask me.

What’s Bachmann going to do next? Speak out about the dangers of sunscreen? Maybe launch an entire pro-cancer platform?

After something like this, it’s pretty clear that we can’t seriously consider Bachmann as a presidential candidate.

Caplan agreed, saying, “She would be disastrous for science and technology. She is not a person who seems open minded about making an impact on climate change, she doesn’t seem to understand why creationism is not a scientific theory and she seems basically to be anti-science and willing to lie about well-known facts when it suits her political purpose.”

He added jokingly, “Other than that she’d be great.”

How can we possibly consider someone like this to be president of the United States? She’s not very smart, and she’s not very moral.

Sally Engelhart is a College senior from Toronto. Her email address is Scientifically Blonde appears every other Thursday.

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