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Social issues have been mostly ignored nationally this year as Congress and presidential candidates fight over government spending, but on the state level, the fight over sex hasn't gone away. Tuesday night, a federal judge blocked part of a North Carolina law that would force a woman to look at ultrasounds of her fetus -- and give her a chance to listen to the heartbeat -- before terminating her pregnancy, the Associated Press reports. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles wants to hear more arguments, saying she hadn't heard any evidence that the rules would prevent women from being forced to have the medical procedure. Meanwhile, activists in Mississippi are lobbying voters ahead of a November 8 vote on an amendment to the state's constitution that would declare all fertilized eggs a person, The New York Times' Erik Eckholm reports. That would make all abortions -- plus the morning-after pill and IUDs -- murder. The measure is being debated in several other states; Wisconsin, for example, got its first "personhood" billboard earlier this month: "We're all just grown-up embryos." While few gay marriage questions have come up in the primary debates, the states are fighting over gay rights. New Hampshire is moving closer to repealing its law allowing gay marriage, which is just 15 months old. In June, Tennessee passed a law that says cities can't refuse to make contracts with companies that don't forbid discrimination against gays.
The Mississippi amendment is opposed by many pro-life groups because they fear it would be brought to the Supreme Court, where it could be defeated. Catholic Bishop Joseph Latino said his church wouldn't support the law because "the push for a state amendment could ultimately harm our efforts to overturn Roe vs. Wade," Eckholm reports. National Right to Life doesn't, support it either. But among Mississippi lawmakers, support for the bill is bipartisan. That's less true of the North Carolina law, which the state House majority leader, Paul Stam, a Republican, claims would prevent 10 percent of abortions. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed it earlier this year, but the the state legislature overturned her veto.
A personhood proposal was defeated twice in Colorado, but, Eckholm reports, supporters are organizing in states far outside the conservative South, including Florida, Michigan, Montana, and Ohio. While Judge Eagles hears more arguments, other parts of North Carolina's law take effect
Wednesday. Women have to wait 24 hours before an abortion. A state "Choose Life" license plate will raise money
for pregnancy counseling centers that tries to convince women not to have abortions. Even as these debates rage in some swing states, the issue has gotten little attention in the Republican primary, which has been driving the national political debate for much of this year. The notable exceptions are discussion of Herman Cain's inability to articulate whether he thinks it should be legal and Rick Santorum being blasted as "weird
" by some conservatives for saying contraception is bad. "One of the things that I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the sexual liberty idea and many in the Christian faith have said, you know contraception is OK," Santorum told a conservative blog
this month. "It's not OK because it's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
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is the former politics editor for The Wire