COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Gov. Nikki Haley has vetoed a bill allowing the state's public health agency to provide information on and access to a free vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted, cancer-causing virus.
The bill calls for informational brochures on the vaccine for human papillomavirus, known as HPV, to be provided to parents of sixth-graders. Parents could choose to have their seventh-graders receive the vaccine.
"What she did was cowardice," said bill sponsor Rep. Bakari Sellers. "She had the opportunity to save lives and cut back health costs. She played politics with people's lives and women lost."
The bill specifies that the brochures and free vaccines depend on funding. Haley argued the funding caveat means the bill does nothing. She also argued it's a suspended unfunded mandate.
"We would not implement the program until funding was available. It is not an unfunded mandate. It is not a mandate in any shape, form or fashion," said Sellers.
Haley said she doesn't want the government putting out information on a vaccine parents should discuss with their family doctors. Sellers noted the bill does not require children to get the vaccine, it only requires the option be made available.
Many in South Carolina have questioned the motive behind Haley's veto, since she supported similar legislation while serving as a state representative. In 2007, Haley co-sponsored a similar bill requiring all middle school aged girls to get the HPV vaccine. She later voted against the bill after learning it did not allow families to opt-out.
Republican political consultant Wesley Donehue said Haley also vetoed the bill because it did not provide a service that already is not available.
Parents can get free HPV vaccines for their young daughters by going to state health clinics now.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.