Sunday, December 6, 2015

I Thought We Weren't Going To Talk About Social Issues

Republicans, from GOProud to Scott Walker, have urged their party's candidates to avoid social issues on the campaign trail. Still smarting from the "war on women" theme that put a polish on the GOP's image of Old White Men trying to run the country, Republicans were advised to avoid certain topics - marriage equality and abortion, for example - that would energize their aging voter base at the cost of, as Rudy Giuliani phrased it, "we lose the suburbs." 

But it isn't easy to follow that advice with presidential candidates like Mike Huckabee raising those issues. Indeed, it's likely to get a whole lot more difficult in the heat of the 2016 campaign for the White House. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a major decision on the single most volatile social issue of them all - abortion.

In Whole Women's Health v Cole, the Court will address abortion rights for the first time in a generation. At issue are Texas laws that impose strict standards on clinics that provide abortions and the doctors who staff them. The new rules may cause up to 75% of existing clinics to close, imposing what the plaintiffs call an "undue burden" on women seeking abortions while the state of Texas insists the law will promote women's health. A decision is expected by next June.

The Court's decision will absolutely impact women's healthcare in Texas and undoubtedly influence lawmaking in many other states in the years to follow. Pro choice and anti-abortion advocates will, I'm sure, energetically respond to the decision no matter which way the Court rules.  

But the more immediate concern for Republicans will be how to respond to the decision without appearing to take unpopular sides on this fundamental "social issue."

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