Tuesday, March 6, 2007, 08:59 AM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The two-week hiatus by the state Legislature has become an opportunity for critics to gin up opposition to Sen. Don Balfour’s measure to mandate that girls entering the sixth grade be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

Late Monday, Sadie Fields, chairman of the Georgia Christian Alliance, sent out an e-mail blast to supporters, urging them to ring up Balfour’s office.

And over the weekend, the board of directors of the Georgia Federation of Young Republican Clubs condemned the measure.

“We felt that the State of Georgia should not be using its police power to force all sixth grade girls to take the woefully under-tested and very expensive vaccine,” said chairman Jason Shepherd.

Shepherd has connections to state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, but also once served as a legislative aide for Balfour, a Republican from Snellville.

Given that Balfour is chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, S.B. 155 is sure to get a floor vote when the Legislature reconvenes.

But even before Fields and the Young Republicans stepped in, the legislation had been getting poor reviews from the GOP’s rightward contingent. Last week, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) came out against mandating the vaccine. On the state Senate floor, David Shafer of Duluth is likely to be one of the leading opponents. He’s posted this on his blog.

In her message, Fields said: “First, it sends the wrong message to young girls that it is okay to engage in premarital sex at a very young age.

“Secondly, it does not address all strains of the HPV virus and covers no other sexually transmitted diseases and may lull young girls into thinking they are protected when indeed they are not.

“Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the decision about whether or not a young girl receives this vaccine should be left up to parents, the child and the doctor.”

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