Merck is funding efforts to pass state laws that would require girls as young as 11 to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted cervical-cancer virus. Some conservative groups argued that this requirement would encourage premarital sex and interfere with parents' rights.
Merck has funneled money to Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country, and a top official from Merck's vaccine division sits on Women in Government's business council.
At least 18 states are debating whether or not to make Merck's vaccine Gardasil mandatory for schoolgirls. Many of these bills have been introduced by members of Women in Government.
Gardasil protects against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.