The Presidential Candidates & Women's Rights

women on megaphone This discussion about who, among the presidential candidates, is and isn't a woman hater is interesting. And I would argue, very calculated. The flap over whether birth control should be covered by health insurance was a not so subtle attempt by the Obama camp to insert birth control as a wedge issue when the Republicans were vulnerable. And it worked. Obama came off looking moderate because he changed his mind. Ditto the flap over whether pregnant teens under 16 should be allowed to get the morning after pill without a prescription. In both cases, there were major headlines and then a retreat to the middle. In an election where moderates will be crucial, I would say the Republicans need to take a cue from the women in their party, many of whom are pro-choice.  As we've said before, the social conservatives are slam dunk Republicans. It's the middle that will determine the next election. And a lot of those Republicans who voted for Obama were women.

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The birth control wedge did exactly what Democrats hoped. It provoked immediate reactions and headlines. Romney decried it as an affront to religious freedom, which it was. But Santorum went all the way and attacked contraception altogether.

The Republicans need to point out that abortion is not, inherently, a political issue. And to remind voters that abortion is a deeply personal choice based on an individual's spirituality and science. Believing that life begins at a certain stage does not make you a woman hater. None of us should make the mistake that someone who is against abortion hates women. But it does get political and does sound like women hating when you try to cut funds for education, or convince the Susan G. Komen foundation to slash funding for breast cancer screenings or take us back to the dark ages by questioning whether women should have the right to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies. Or when Newt Gingrich supports the view that Title X funds should be cut because Planned Parenthood is a major source for abortions when Title X funds go to education, counseling and STD prevention.

I am really concerned about how young women view the Republican Party right now. This is an excerpt from Syracuse University's online newspaper, Daily Orange:

With the primary election under way, candidates like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are competing for the position to run against President Barack Obama in November and take down one of the biggest proponents of women's rights the White House has seen yet.

These three men also seem to be in a competition to see who can unravel America's laws protecting the advancement and progress of females. It's important for female voters on campus to be aware of how the GOP candidates are dangerous for women and understand the ways in which oppression and sexism occur even in modern day politics.

The message managers need to challenge the perception that Barack Obama has been one of the biggest proponents of women's rights the White House has seen yet. Is that true? I think his biggest priority has been using the government to re-engineer entire industries, like healthcare and banking, at a time when our country could least afford it.

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. Read the original question and find links to all their responses here: How Will the Next President Affect Women's Rights?

image via nationaalarchief/Flickr

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