Scott MacKay’s column Whither the Democratic Party in 2018? creates a false dichotomy between “speaking to struggling workers” and issues related to women’s rights. The top priority of women’s rights advocates in the Rhode Island Democratic Party is reproductive rights, which are issues faced by ‘struggling workers.’ The Democratic Party has long prospered by its commitment to kitchen table issues — like education, jobs, health care. On education, a child drastically alters a woman’s ability to pursue her education. As for jobs, having a child is one of the most significant decisions related to a woman’s career that she and her family will ever face. Finally, abortion literally is health care. Women like me are working to help the Democratic Party understand that reproductive rights are exactly the kind of kitchen-table issue that affects the lives of women, rather than some kind of identity-based sideshow to the grievances of the white working-class voters who have swung toward the Republicans under President Trump.
Little did I know when I testified before the Senate last year in favor of the Reproductive Health Care Act, which would codify the right to legal abortion into Rhode Island law, that it would provide such a perfect counterpoint to MacKay’s future column. Many women that day explained how crucial this policy issue is to women and our lives. So in my testimony, I focused on explaining that it was also smart politics for Democrats to stand up for a woman’s right to choose. You can watch that testimony here:
MacKay wonders what it will take for Democrats to “come together.” We must embrace the women knocking on the door, looking to take on leadership roles. I look forward to a stronger Democratic Party that represents its women better, and to overwhelming electoral victories in the 2018 election and beyond. There’s a reason the Women’s Marches this year used the theme #PowerToThePolls. I, and the huge number of Rhode Island women (and men) who have demonstrated their concern about these issues, will see you there.
Justine Caldwell is running against Representative Antonio Giarrusso in Rhode Island House District 30 (East Greenwich).