Any woman who has been paying even cursory attention to the recent political actions of Republicans knows that the widespread “War on Women” has been in full force since they swept into power in 2010. But according to one poll heavily touted by right wing pundits, a fair number of women haven’t been paying attention. The Hill conducted a national poll that found 46 percent of women voters said Romney better understands their issues while 41 percent said Obama is better.
However, any scrutiny of the differences between what President Obama and the Democrats are offering by way of policies affecting women versus what Romney and the Republicans have been proposing makes it clear that there is a solid reason for Obama’s significant double-digit lead over Romney among women in the majority of polls. It is actually fairly stunning that his support among women isn’t even higher. Going into the 2012 election, it is important for women to be fully aware of just why Obama and the Democrats are really the only reasonable choice. Here are just a few of those reasons:
- Recognizing and addressing wage discrimination
On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed his first law, “The Lilly Ledbetter Act,” which allows a woman who discovers her pay was less than her male counterparts for the same job to sue for up to 180 days past their last discriminatory paycheck. This remedied a ridiculous Supreme Court ruling that limited a woman’s right to sue to 180 days past her first discriminatory paycheck allowing a business to permanently escape repercussions if they could hide their behavior for a few months. Naturally, when this act made its way through Congress, it received virtually no Republican support. This is hardly surprising given that Republicans are quick to even deny that women face wage disparities.
2. Significantly increased funding for the Violence against Women Act
For nearly two decades, the Violence against Women Act has been the major line of defense for women against domestic abuse. When President Obama came into office, he made it a priority to expand funding for the programs offered under the Act such as the Crime Victims Fund and violence hotlines. Recently, the Violence against Women Act has been in the news because it is up for reauthorization this year. While the reauthorization of VAWA did pass in the Senate, all of the votes against it were from Republican men. The House version has yet to be passed, but already with the Republican majority, it looks like it will be a watered down version of previous measures.
3. Reproductive freedom including reversing the global gag rule that once prohibited international organizations from receiving aid
By far the most striking difference between Republicans and Obama and the Democrats has to do with the liberty of women regarding their right to choose abortion when they feel it is necessary. According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were a record 127 provisions restricting abortion passed in 2011 across the 50 states, and another 75 provisions proposed for this year in a disturbing trend to limit women’s rights. The most egregious laws have to be those that allow the government to force a probe into a women’s vagina in exchange for something she needs and is legally entitled to, which is state-based rape as far as many people are concerned.
Courtesy: Guttmacher Institute
In response to this horror, President Obama stated,
“And now we’ve got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania and all across the country saying that women can’t be trusted to make your own decisions. They’re pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds, even if they don’t want one. And if you don’t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can ‘close your eyes.’”
In contrast, the Obama administration has supported reproductive rights and removed the global gag rule which previously denied funding to international organizations that even mentioned abortion as an option to women in poor countries. Unfortunately, due to the political climate, his administration has also had to restrict abortion funding for poor women under the Affordable Care Act just to get the healthcare law passed.
4. Access to birth control
On January 20, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would stand by its initial policy announcement that the Affordable Care Act would require insurers to cover the expenses of birth control for women. Republicans became apoplectic, insisting this was an affront to religious organizations who didn’t want to their insurance companies to offer this coverage. Curiously, they haven’t complained when insurers covered vasectomies. In the face of Republican tantrums, Obama said,
“Republicans in Congress were going so far as to say an employer should be able to have a say in the health care decisions of its female employees. You know, for a party that prides itself on being rabidly anti-regulations of almost any kind, for folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference and meddling, it doesn’t seem to bother them when it comes to a woman’s health.” The only criticism of the Obama administration in this area is regarding the decision to limit over-the-counter access to Plan B against the recommendations of an FDA panel, but then the Republicans would not doubt like to eliminate access to Plan B altogether.”
5. Improved affordability and access to health care for women under the Affordable Care Act
Women have always been charged more than men for their healthcare coverage, but the Affordable Care Act has provisions to eliminate this bias. It is stunning to realize that 68% of women insured by individual market plans do not have coverage for maternity checkups, but thanks for the Affordable Care Act, insurers will now be required to include this coverage in their plans. Likewise the ACA requires insurers to cover a range of preventative services such as mammograms, HIV testing, and other cancer screenings without requiring copays or deductibles. Notably, the ACA is particularly beneficial to women of color. Meanwhile, the Republicans only want to repeal the ACA.
6. Increased opportunities to women who own businesses
The Obama administration expanded lending by the Small Business Administration which is already 3-5 times more likely to make loans to businesses owned by women or minorities than banks. In addition, the SBA opened 10 new Women’s Business Centers, while government contracts to businesses owned by women were expanded through the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract program.
7. Creation of the White House Council on Women and Girls
On March 11, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls which is meant “to ensure that each of the agencies in which they’re charged takes into account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, the legislation they support.” The Council generated the first federal report on the status on women in the United States in nearly 50 years. The Council has gotten involved with issues ranging from women’s involvement in math, science & engineering careers to hosting the White House Forum on Women and the Economy.
These are just a few of the ways in which Obama and the Democrats have benefited women in sharp contrast to the Republicans who have waged their War on Women. You will constantly see the Republicans whining that the whole concept is conjured up for political reasons, but their policies speak for themselves. When it comes time to cast their vote in November, the choice couldn’t be more obvious for any sensible woman voting in her own best interests.
Deborah is a former social work professor who taught social policy, mental health policy, and human diversity. Proud to be called liberal, she happily pays her taxes after being raised in a home that needed long-term welfare. Contrary to the opinion of many, she is living proof that government investment in children leads them out of poverty having received services from Head Start to Pell Grants. Deborah works with low-income, first generation, and disabled college students who are at high-risk for dropping out of college in a program designed to help them graduate. She lives with her husband, stepson, and an aging cat.