(Updated: September 13, 2011 at 6:21 PM CT)

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is facing criticism after suggesting that vaccines could be responsible for causing disabilities.

During a debate Monday night, Bachmann blasted her opponent Texas Gov. Rick Perry for an executive order he signed requiring young girls in that state to be vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV. But it was a claim she made after the debate that’s riling some in the disability community.

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“I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter,” Bachmann said on the Today Show Tuesday morning. “It can have very dangerous side effects.”

The congresswoman from Minnesota is not the first to suggest a link between vaccines and disabilities. Most notably, many continue to believe that childhood vaccinations can cause autism despite significant scientific evidence to the contrary.

Now some in the disability community are calling out Bachmann’s comments as inappropriate.

“Congresswoman Bachmann’s decision to spread fear of vaccines is dangerous and irresponsible,” Evan Siegfried of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership told Politico. “There is zero credible scientific evidence that vaccines cause mental retardation or autism. She should cease trying to foment fear in order to advance her political agenda.”

The nation’s leading pediatricians’ group is also chiming in on the issue.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to correct false statements made in the Republican presidential campaign that HPV vaccine is dangerous and can cause mental retardation,” the organization’s president O. Marion Burton said in a statement on Tuesday. “There is absolutely no scientific validity to this statement. Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record.”