Our Common Good

Democrats, it seems, have taken a page from the GOP playbook. For a long time, Republicans have introduced what looks like dead-end legislation and then used it to demagogue their opponents, like the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011, which sought to fight the non-problem, at least in the U.S., of abortions motivated by race and gender. Then there are the more successful abortion restrictions and Planned Parenthood defundings that have trickled down from the federal level to sympathetic state legislatures, where they’ve found greater success.

If Democrats want to keep the GOP on the defensive on women’s issues — and not only maintain that gender gap that shows up in most polls, but mobilize women in the base — they should seize the moment and get ambitious. After all, the political conversation around women’s rights is still overwhelmingly reactive to the conservative agenda, and what victories there have been are partial — the potential for a moderately expanded version of VAWA and eliminating the co-pay on a range of women’s healthcare services aside.

I asked advocates and activists to think big and offer up a proactive policy wish-list. “I am inclined to suggest that we introduce a bill entitled, ‘Politicians Should Leave Women the Hell Alone Act,’” says Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. Short of that, there are four main areas of focus here: reproductive health, employment issues, sexual assault and domestic violence protections, and foreign policy. Most of these bills wouldn’t have a chance of passing with the current composition of Congress, especially the House. But why leave the realignment to the right?