State Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

The same Florida legislator who is seeking an all-out ban on abortion in the state has sponsored a bill in the Legislature that would recommend the HPV vaccine for young girls entering the sixth grade.

State Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, who most recently filed a bill that would ban abortion across the board in Florida, has taken a surprising position on an issue disputed among social conservatives.

Van Zant is sponsoring a bill in the House introduced by state Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, that would urge parents to give young girls HPV vaccines upon entering the sixth grade.

The HPV vaccine has been a hot-button issue among conservatives who believe giving young girls a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer promotes promiscuity. HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted virus. During one of the first GOP presidential debates last year,  candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann sparred over an executive order issued by Perry, the governor of Texas, requiring that girls entering the sixth grade receive the vaccine.

The New York Times reported that the HPV vaccine issue “pushes many buttons with conservatives: overreach of government in health care decisions, suspicion that sex education leads to promiscuity and even the belief — debunked by science — that childhood vaccinations may be linked to mental disorders.”

After pressure from social conservatives, Perry eventually retreated from his position on the HPV vaccine, a move Altman says was “disappointing.”

“I wish Rick Perry would not have backed down on that,” he says.

Altman’s bill is different from Perry’s executive order, however, because it only “recommends” the vaccine. ”I chose the least intrusive way to do this,” Altman says.

Altman and Van Zant’s bill would simply require the state Department of Health to adopt a rule “adding human papillomavirus to list of communicable diseases for which immunizations are recommended.”

It would also require that schools “provide parents or guardians of certain public school students information regarding human papillomavirus & availability of vaccine,” the bill’s summary states.

Altman says the HPV vaccine is an important development for women’s health and should not be politicized. ”It’s like we are in the medieval ages,” he says.

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