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Prochoicers Took a Hit to Help Pass Heathcare Reform -- It's Payback Time Now

The Democratic Party and the Obama administration owe supporters of women's rights a huge payback for cooperating on its signature issue. Here are some suggestions.

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§ Fully fund the Violence Against Women Act, which comes up for reauthorization in 2011 and has never been given resources adequate to the immense task of combating rape, domestic violence, harassment, stalking and other abuses. Read the riot act to the Department of Education, which has used its power only six times in twenty years to fine schools that fail to report sex crimes on campus. According to a joint investigation of the Center for Public Integrity and NPR, colleges rarely expel men found to have committed sexual assaults, while victims often lack support and eventually drop out or transfer. Every college that takes federal funds--which is almost all of them--needs to be put on notice that the days of coddling rapists are over.

§ Speaking of violence against women, Dems, would you look in the effing mirror? New York's Hiram Monserrate and David Paterson? Scott Lee Cohen in Illinois? That these men and others like them could get as far as they did says the culture of the party is tone-deaf when it comes to abuse and its warning signs. The only way to detoxify politics of tolerance for violence is to have lots more women in office. If India can pass a law requiring Parliament to be one-third women, surely the Democratic Party can figure out how to achieve equal numbers of women here. Pro-choice women. Feminist women.

Start by backing the grassroots campaign of former teacher and county commissioner Connie Saltonstall, who has announced her intention to challenge Bart Stupak in the August primary. "He has a right to his personal, religious views," says Saltonstall, "but to deprive his constituents of needed healthcare reform because of those views is reprehensible." Now there's a woman with gumption and a gift for stating things clearly.

It's our turn now.

Katha Pollitt is a columnist for The Nation.

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