Michael Gerson, like many good writers, writes best when he's angry. And man, is he angry over Michele Bachmann's dangerous campaign against the HPV vaccine:
The objections to routine HPV vaccination cluster in a few areas. First, it is alleged that removing medical penalties for sexual contact -- in this case, HPV and cervical cancer -- will encourage sex. A protective shot given to a girl on the verge of sexual maturity, in this view, may be taken as permission for experimentation.
This type of argument is inherently difficult to prove or disprove. But it is unlikely that a 16-year-old making sexual choices is focused on her chances of getting a cancer that might develop 20 years in the future -- a hypothetical event beyond the time horizon of the adolescent mind.
The more disturbing moral failure concerns any parent who would entertain this argument. Try to imagine a parent-daughter conversation about sexual restraint and maturity that includes the words: "Honey, I'm going to deny you a vaccine that prevents a horrible, bleeding cancer, just as a little reminder of the religious values I've been trying to teach you." This would be morally monstrous. Such ethical electroshock therapy has nothing to do with cultivation of character in children. It certainly has nothing to do with Christianity, which teaches that moral rules are created for the benefit of the individual, not to punish them with preventable death.
This approach to moral education may appeal to a certain kind of conservative politician. How could it possibly appeal to a parent, conservative or otherwise?