THE BLOG

In the War on Women, Democrats Are Part of the Problem Too

11/05/2012 02:59 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

When I wrote a blog post last week about a new poll indicating that independents and others were as concerned about the War on Women as liberals, Huffington Post readers asked why I was attributing the assault on women's rights to "Washington," not just the Republican Party.

While it is true that bills seeking to curb women's rights to contraception, abortion, and equal pay for equal work are originating with Republicans, let's be honest: Women's rights are not at the top of the Democratic agenda in Congress.

Sure, there has been no lack of Democratic candidates in this election campaign trying to rally support from women voters (who will be casting 10 million more votes than men this year). But most Democrats in elected office are not doing nearly enough to stand up for women's rights.

When is the last time you remember Democrats, as a party, raising hell about the 92 anti-abortion restrictions passed in 24 states? When did you last hear Democrats denouncing the 25 states that are filing lawsuits to block access to free contraception coverage? When have you seen Democrats getting together to condemn the Republican Party's refusal to renew the Violence Against Women Act? You didn't, because for most Democratic congressmen, women's rights are not a priority.

There are several reasons for this. One, laziness. Yes, you read that right, laziness. Democrats in the House stood idly by while the Republicans wasted 52 days and $249 million in the last session on bills attacking women's rights. No doubt they calculated that these bills didn't have a shot of getting through the Senate. But they also had a golden opportunity to generate national outrage against the Republican agenda and unmask the sort of extremism that has now come out on the campaign trail. Why didn't they do it? In short, because they couldn't be bothered.

Some Democrats, especially those with a rocky road to re-election, worry that speaking out on divisive hot-button issues like abortion could hurt their popularity in their districts. But others do not speak out because they sympathize with the Republican position. Blue Dogs and others may not be as extreme in their views, for instance on abortion in the cases of rape or incest, but they are unmistakably part of the problem, not part of the solution.

At least 25 Blue Dog Democrats do not support abortion rights for women. That directly contradicts the 2012 Democratic National Platform, which states:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.

The Blue Dogs pay no political price for their position. On the contrary, they continue to receive DSCC and DCCC funding for their campaigns. That may be expedient for a party anxious to wrest every congressional seat it can out of the hands of its opponents. But a profile in courage it is not.

Yes, it is true that the War on Women is being led by Republicans, but they are counting, in part, on the acquiescence or cowardice of the party on the other side of the aisle to achieve their goals. Democrats need to do a better job of standing up and fighting for women's rights -- not just on the campaign trail, but where it counts, on the floor of the House and Senate.