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Opinion Distinguished pol of the week: Her post-Dobbs strategy is working splendidly

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks during an event at the U.S. Capitol on July 20. (Al Drago/Bloomberg)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took charge of the national response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in a way no one in the White House, Senate or even pro-choice groups has been able to do. She understood that not only the court’s right-wing majority but also the Republican Party who put them on the bench were wildly out of step with the public.

So in a Dear Colleagues letter just days after the opinion was announced, she vowed to bring to the House floor measures that would protect “women’s most intimate and personal data stored in reproductive health apps”; affirm the “Constitutional right to travel freely and voluntarily throughout the United States”; and once more pass the Women’s Health Protection Act to make Roe v. Wade federal law.

But she did not stop there. She seized on Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion in Dobbs, which called for an even broader assault on privacy rights — including access to contraception, in-vitro fertilization and same-sex marriage.

She has made good on her promises. Earlier this month, the House passed the Women’s Health Protection Act and measures to protect the right to travel and information privacy, which Republicans opposed almost unanimously. In doing so, Republicans effectively put their stamp of approval on tech companies and governments rummaging through women’s phones to figure out whether and when they became pregnant. Republicans also own any state efforts to ban interstate travel for abortion patients.

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Pelosi then put a bill protecting same-sex marriage on the floor. This time, the legislation lured 47 Republicans to vote yes, but the vast majority of Republicans voted against a now popular feature of American life.

Finally, on Thursday, Pelosi put on the floor a bill codifying the right to contraception, which Democratic, Republican and independent voters all overwhelmingly favor. Lo and behold, 195 Republicans voted against it. Democrats should be popping open the champagne. If ever there was a vote that epitomized the GOP’s extremism and disdainful view of women, this is it.

As Pelosi said on the House floor, “It’s outrageous that, nearly 60 years after Griswold was decided, women must once again fight for fundamental freedom to determine the size and timing of their families,” she said, referring to the court’s 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut. She added, “But as Republicans turn back the clock on contraception, Democrats today are making it clear: We are not going back.”

The speaker was just getting warmed up: Controlling women’s options for contraception, she said, “is just another plank in the Republican extreme agenda for America.” She explained that the bill would establish an “unequivocal statutory right to obtain and use contraception,” affecting only the most “extremist state laws.”

It’s a matter of health, of “economic justice” and “a matter of fundamental freedom to make their own decisions about your own body and own life.” She reminded Republicans that the vast majority of Americans think they should have access to contraception.

She then lowered the boom: “Let us be clear: Those that oppose this legislation are only revealing their dark desire to punish and control America’s most intimate and personal decisions. . . .What is this about? They are against birth control, but they are for controlling women. This is about servitude.”

She couldn’t resist taunting Republicans. “I ask those who oppose contraception, again, do you even know what’s going on in your own families? Why don’t you ask? Do we need a session of the birds and bees to talk about why this is important?”

Democrats would be foolish not to feature this issue in every congressional race. At a moment when Democrats’ numbers are surging in generic congressional ballot polls, which measures which party voters prefer to control Congress, Pelosi has found an effective way to hoist Republicans with their own petard.

For reaffirming overwhelmingly popular positions on privacy rights, underscoring the extremism of the right-wing Supreme Court and exposing Republicans’ radically misogynistic views, we can say well done, Madam Speaker.

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