Reversals for religious right

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Toto, are we still in Kansas?

For the religious right, the answer is "maybe not" after a series of setbacks this week, including one in America's heartland. Christian conservatives have taken three hard punches in one week.

First, in Kansas, the birthplace of the so-called intelligent design theory (to wit, a dressed up version of creationism), moderates--given their victory in the Republican primary this week--are poised to control the majority of seats on the state's school board. As the New York Times reports, "Kansas voters on Tuesday handed power back to moderates on the State Board of Education, setting the stage for a return of science teaching that broadly accepts the theory of evolution, according to preliminary election results.... [T]wo conservatives -- including incumbent Connie Morris, a former west Kansas teacher and author who had described evolution as 'a nice bedtime story'-- appear to have been defeated decisively by two moderates in the Republican primary elections. One moderate incumbent, Janet Waugh from the Kansas City area, held on to her seat in the Democratic primary."

Second, after years of stalling over-the-counter sales of the emergency contraceptive Plan B, the Food and Drug Administration announced a compromise this week that moves the drug slightly forward toward approval. The FDA proposed to sell Plan B without a prescription to customers 18 and older. The offer came the day before the start of the confirmation hearings for the acting FDA commissioner,Andrew von Eschenbach. Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington are continuing their hold on a Senate floor vote on von Eschenbach's nomination until Plan B is approved.

The Chicago Tribune reports, "Religious conservatives oppose allowing its sale without a prescription, which they say could encourage promiscuity and sexual exploitation of girls. FDA medical reviewers and a panel of outside experts have recommended approval of over-the-counter status for women of any age."

Finally, in South Dakota, a new poll shows that more residents oppose the state's antiabortion initiative than support it. Forty-seven percent of voters say they'd vote against the strict abortion ban, which makes an exception only when the pregnant woman's life is in danger. Just 39 percent of South Dakotan voters would support it.

For Democrats, the hope is that this nascent rebellion against the Christian right will hold through the fall elections. Some 20 states have banned gay marriage; another seven will take up the issue in November. But if this week is any indication, "issue fatigue" could set in, Christian voters might stay home, and the Democrats might croon come Election Day.