Last night’s debate crystallized the clear choice American women face in this election. While President Obama outlined his strong record of cracking down on pay discrimination, ensuring women’s access to affordable health care, and making sure women can make their own health care choices, Mitt Romney revealed his plans to roll back reproductive rights and take women back to the 1950s. Here are three moments from last night’s debate that demonstrate President Obama’s unshakeable commitment to women’s rights and show why Mitt Romney would be the wrong choice for women across the country.
Planned Parenthood and access to birth control
Mitt Romney supports the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to deny women coverage for contraceptive care, as well as other health services, if doing so conflicts with their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” While Romney clearly feels comfortable letting politicians in Washington decide women’s health care choices, President Obama believes that women should make their own health care choices and have affordable access to health care services, including birth control. As the President noted last night, access to health care services isn’t just a health issue, “it’s an economic issue for women. It makes a difference. This is money out of that family’s pocket.”
Romney also wants to ban all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, saying, “We’re going to get rid of that.” But President Obama understands that women depend on Planned Parenthood for basic health services they can’t afford to lose. As he pointed out at the debate, “There are millions of women all across the country who rely on Planned Parenthood for not just contraceptive care,” but for preventive health care like annual exams and breast and cervical cancer screenings.
Equal pay for equal work
As he emphasized last night, President Obama is fighting to guarantee that women aren’t paid less for doing the same work as men. That’s why the first bill the President signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps ensure that women can fight for equal pay after they’ve learned about an unfair pay disparity.
Romney, on the other hand, has wavered for months on whether or not he would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act into law. After finally acknowledging that Romney opposed the bill, the Romney campaign immediately walked his position back to one of deliberate ambiguity, claiming that he “never weighed in on it.” Instead of giving a yes or no answer on the basic question of fair pay, the Romney campaign is making what should be an easy answer extremely complicated. As the President pointed out last night, “That’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy.”
“Whole binders full of women”
In an effort to avoid owning up to his extreme positions on women’s rights, Mitt Romney tried to tout his efforts to hire women as governor of Massachusetts, claiming that he reached out to women’s groups who brought him “whole binders” of women qualified to serve in his cabinet. But the facts show that the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0% prior to his taking office, to 27.6% near the end of his term in November 2006. And during the 1980s and 1990s, Romney did not have any women partners as CEO of Bain Capital.
But Romney didn’t stop there: “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible,” he said. But there is no “if”—women make up nearly half the workforce and they deserve to be paid equally for the same work and the same qualifications.