The past year has been marked (and continues to be marked) by a battle over women’s reproductive rights and health issues. As the election approaches, women’s health issues seems central to who will win and of course, who will lose the election.
Why it is that men and women alike get all hot under the collar by what women choose to do with their bodies? The answer lies in the fact that reproductive rights touches on all areas of life- the economy, religion, society and culture. In other words- your wallet, your faith, your community values and your inherited family dynamics. What a delicious spicy cocktail- clearly shaken and not stirred.
In fact, if you’re "pro-choice", you must be a (secular) slut and if you’re "anti- choice", you’re a righteous radical. Those sticky labels, just can’t shake ‘em!
But with our strong beliefs, we look to our potential leaders and see if they’ll mirror them back. The more emotional the topic, the more intently we look. And when we do look, we can be guaranteed a nice show of ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’. But some evasion and attack techniques can be distracting; Romney’s criticized for being “out of touch with the average woman’s health issues” (Obama campaign Ad) and the President is apparently waging a “war on religion” (Romney’s campaign Ad).
So what is true? Here’s the skinny on Obama and Romney:
President Obama is a very strong supporter of reproductive rights and Planned Parenthood. He believes in a woman’s right to choose. Obama is pro-choice, though he says he’s not pro-abortion.
According to Mitt Romney’s website, he is pro-life and wants to prevent roughly a million abortions a year from happening. He believes that life begins at conception and believes the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade. Romney then believes that each state should be empowered to determine their own abortion laws. He also supports the Hyde Amendment, which generally bars the use of federal funds for abortions. With respect to Planned Parenthood, he advocates for an end to federal funding.
These are our presidential candidates’ views. But promises, promises, promises (insert yawn) are empty unless there’s a voting record:
According to On the Issues, Obama’s voting record around women’s repro rights is as follows:
- Blocked Illinois law: Born Alive Infant Protection Act. (Oct 2011)
- Opposed born-alive treatment law because it was already law. (Oct 2008)
- Supports Roe v. Wade. (Jul 1998)
- Voted NO on defining unborn child as eligible for SCHIP. (Mar 2008)
- Voted NO on prohibiting minors crossing state lines for abortion. (Mar 2008)
- Voted YES on expanding research to more embryonic stem cell lines. (Apr 2007)
- Voted NO on notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. (Jul 2006)
- Voted YES on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. (Mar 2005)
- Sponsored bill providing contraceptives for low-income women. (May 2006)
- Rated 0 percent by the NRLC, indicating a pro-choice stance. (Dec 2006)
- Ensure access to and funding for contraception. (Feb 2007)
As for Romney, here’s what On the Record says:
- Would be delighted to sign federal ban on all abortions. (Nov 2007)
- 2005: Vetoed availability without Rx of morning-after pill. (Aug 2007)
- Defining mistake: supported abortion law despite opposing it. (Aug 2007)
- Would welcome overturning Roe v. Wade. (Mar 2007)
- Committed to not change law on abortion as Gov., and did not. (Mar 2007)
- Opposes Roe v Wade, but won’t tamper with abortion laws. (Dec 2006)
- Vetoed emergency contraception for rape victims. (Jul 2005)
- Endorsed legalization of RU-486/ the abortion pill. (Mar 2002)
It seems that with Obama, there’s some consistency in his voting record. But Romney’s voting record is not.
Some argue that politicians should never have been involved in the legislating women’s health care issues. I suppose in the light of Todd Akin's recent remark stating that pregnancy rarely results from "legitimate rape" is exactly why. But the fact is, even though women’s reproductive rights (intertwined with religion) may have no place in politics, it seems to be taking center stage.
So don’t get distracted by the argument that men are under women’s skirts making all the policies. Women have a strong voice and can vote to make the impact they want. Now is the time.
Fenella Das Gupta is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist ( #47275) working in Northern California,specializing in fertility counseling. She works with individuals and couples as they make their way through the fertility maze