Groups working to reduce the toll of the cancer are eagerly awaiting the vaccine and want it to become part of the standard roster of shots that children, especially girls, receive just before puberty.
Because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted virus, many conservatives oppose making it mandatory, citing fears that it could send a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage. Several leading groups that promote abstinence are meeting this week to formulate official policies on the vaccine.
So here is a possible scenario:
"Hey Barbie, I heard that new girl in school got a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer"
"For sure, Tiffany. What a slut!"
The jockeying reflects the growing influence "social conservatives", who had long felt overlooked by Washington, have gained on a broad spectrum of policy issues under the Bush administration. In this case, a former member of the conservative group Focus on the Family serves on the federal panel that is playing a pivotal role in deciding how the vaccine is used.
What? Did I read that correctly? Focus on the Family? Do we really want to be governed by a group that wants to increase the number of unwed mothers, supports babies in dumpsters, tortures rape and incest victims, and denies loving relationships to gay couples?
"What the Bush administration has done has taken this coterie of people and put them into very influential positions in Washington," said James Morone Jr., a professor of political science at Brown University. "And it's having an effect in debates like this."