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Truth Squad: Did Perry's HPV vaccination claim ring true?

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Fri September 23, 2011

(CNN) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry responded to Rep. Michele Bachmann's criticism of his short-lived 2007 executive order requiring girls to get a vaccination for human papillomavirus, during Thursday night's Republican presidential candidates' debate in Orlando. Bachmann said a drug company that produced the vaccination hired his former chief of staff to lobby him.

Perry's response: "I got lobbied on this issue. I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had Stage 4 cervical cancer. I spent a lot of time with her. She came by my office, talked to me about the program."

The facts:

After Perry made this statement during the debate, questions have been raised about the timing of his executive order and when he met Heather Burcham, the 31-year-old woman he referenced.

Perry on Feb. 2, 2007, signed the order directing the state Health and Human Services commissioner to mandate human papillomavirus vaccination for all girls before admission to the sixth grade. Perry at the time released a statement saying that the vaccine "provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," which HPV can cause.

Perry met Burcham after Feb. 2, 2007, campaign spokesman Mark Miner told CNN Friday, but he was not sure of the precise date. Miner said Perry never claimed to have met Burcham before he signed the order.

The governor and Burcham developed a friendship during the time and Burcham testified in favor of the mandate, Miner told CNN, referring to the Texas Legislature's review of Perry's order. According to the Houston Chronicle, Burcham, of Houston, initially planned to testify February 19, 2007, but was too exhausted when a hearing went late into the evening, Perry's office said at the time.

The Legislature passed a bill overturning Perry's order in April 2007. Perry declined to veto the bill, which went into effect in May 2007, killing his order.

Perry's friendship with Burcham had an impact on the governor during the legislative process, the spokesman said. Perry gave Burcham his personal cell phone number, gave her a motorcycle ride and kept up with and visited her at the hospital during a "difficult time" in her illness, Miner said. The spokesman said foes are distorting Perry's stance on the HPV issue by raising questions on when he met Burcham.

The governor spoke at a memorial service for Burcham, who died in July 2007.

The verdict:

Misleading. While Burcham did lobby in favor of the vaccine, it appears she did so after Perry signed the order directing HHS to mandate the vaccine for all girls before admission to the sixth grade.

CNN's Phil Gast contributed to this report.

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