Issue in the shadows


By Joseph Conrad, Contributor

The last few weeks, gay rights have stolen the stage as the key social issue facing this country.  While the Supreme Court has heard arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition Eight, conservative states have attacked a separate social issue.  With changing views on gay rights, conservatives have begun looking elsewhere to advance their political agenda.  Since the election, Republicans have tried to find a conservative solution to a changing demographic.  Many have suggested a more moderate stance on social issues could be the answer, but red states continue to stick to their socially conservative core.
Even though the abortion issue was decided in the Supreme Court over forty years ago, that hasn’t stopped conservatives from making radical changes to current abortion laws.  The biggest attack on the Roe v. Wade decision comes from North Dakota, which has banned abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected (as early as six weeks into pregnancy).  This comes after a federal judge recently overturned an Idaho law banning abortions twenty weeks into pregnancy.  This is the same polarizing line of thinking that has led to Washington gridlock and, more importantly, to the Republican Party alienating voters.  While I understand that the current laws on abortion can contradict personal religious beliefs, these new restrictions are ineffective and politically problematic.
North Dakota is not alone in adopting such measures.  Arkansas was able to pass a bill banning abortions after the twelfth week, even after Gov. Mike Beebe vetoed.  The governor used the veto because of the obvious costs a court challenge would burden taxpayers with, and because the law would be in clear violation of established precedent.  As Republicans clamor for more fiscal responsibility in Washington, conservative states push to fight a long, expensive judicial battle over abortion.  
Both state laws seem to be headed for court challenge, and both are at great odds with recent court decisions.  Even with the high probability of both laws being struck down, these laws show that conservatives are not going to shy away from social issues.  With many conservatives trying to find middle ground with a changing demographic, social conservatives still have pull within the Republican Party.  Especially in red states, social conservatives have been successful in building a coalition still supportive of fighting such issues.
The Republican Party often prides itself on its ability to defend Constitutional rights, but this is one place where the party falls short.  During a time when the Republican Party is divided, social conservatives are stepping up to take the lead.  Unfortunately, this could turn off moderate Republicans, fiscal conservatives and Constitutionalists.  This may be a fight social conservatives want to have behind the shadow of gay rights.