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Rick Perry: I was "lobbied" on HPV vaccine -- by a woman with cancer

Rick Perry
Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry makes a statement during a debate Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Orlando, Fla. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry gave something of a confession on Thursday night about the controversial executive order he signed in 2007 requiring school girls to be vaccinated for HPV, a sexually transmitted virus.

At the Florida Republican debate on Thursday, Perry continued to take heat for mandating the vaccine for the human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer. Perry's opponent,  Rep. Michele Bachmann, has repeatedly charged that Perry signed the executive order under the influence of pharmaceutical lobbyists.

"I got lobbied on this issue," Perry said in response. "I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady with stage four cervical cancer."

Perry pointed out that he has "readily admitted" that he botched the implementation of the policy. He should have allowed parents to opt in to administering the vaccine to their daughters, rather than asking them to opt out if they objected to it. However, Perry added, "I erred on the side of life, and I will always err on the side of the life."

Bachmann was asked whether she stood by the claim she made earlier this month that the HPV vaccine could be tied to mental retardation. After a debate last week, Bachmann said on Fox News that a woman told her that her daughter received the HPV vaccine and "suffered mental retardation as a result. There are very dangerous consequences."

When asked whether she would still call the vaccine dangerous, even though medical experts disagree, Bachmann said, "I didn't make that claim." Bachmann has said in the past week that she was not speaking as a medical expert but merely relaying what someone told her.

Update Sept. 23, 11 a.m. ET: Following the debate, the Perry campaign said he met the woman he talked about after he signed the executive order.

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