“Simply put, this election will cast the die on whether we will go forward on women’s rights and opportunities, or whether we will undo the gains of the past 40 years. Nothing less is at stake,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, announcing their endorsement today of the re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. “As a woman and feminist leader who has fought for and played a part in many of these advances for women, I frankly feel virtually all of these advances are on the line in this election.”
At today’s press conference with women leaders, the Feminist Majority launched a new website, www.FeministsforObama.com. “The Obama-Biden administration has been fighting for women’s rights on all fronts—their record of achievements is so long it is impossible to summarize in a sound bite. That’s why we are launching this new website and have released a four-page, single-spaced timeline of his achievements,” explained Smeal, noting that the site will contain Feminists for Obama’s Timeline of President Obama’s Major Achievements for Women, Children, and Civil and Human Rights as well as comparisons of the Obama and Romney records and their positions on key women’s issues.
President Obama’s achievements for women’s advancement are historic. He has appointed far more women to his cabinet, to cabinet-level positions, and to the judiciary than any other president in his first term; he has won groundbreaking legislation eliminating sex discrimination in health insurance pricing and benefits, he has promoted and advanced women’s economic and reproductive rights; and has advanced legislation and policies to eliminate violence against women.
“The comparisons between President Obama’s record and Romney’s are stunning,” said Smeal. “President Obama is increasing access to family planning more than any other President in history, while Romney asserts that he would ‘get rid of’ Planned Parenthood. Obama has appointed two pro-choice women to the Supreme Court, including the first Latina, and the most diverse candidates to the federal bench in history (46% women and 36% people of color). In contrast, Mitt Romney has appointed extreme right-wing Judge Robert Bork to head the committee advising Romney on judicial appointments and the Constitution.”
“Ominously,” said Smeal, “Romney has said he wishes Bork were “already” on the Supreme Court, portending his intentions for the Court.” Bork, who was rejected by the Senate in 1987 for his extreme views limiting civil rights, voting rights, and women’s rights (among others), believes that the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law does not apply to women, that politicians should be allowed to outlaw birth control, and that a corporation has the right to tell women employees that they must be sterilized or be fired.
Since 1980, Republican presidents have fought to narrow Title IX, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs; Title VII, the law that prohibits sex discrimination in employment; and to restrict or ban abortion rights. Now we are watching Republican governors, Republican-controlled state legislatures, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and Republican presidential candidate Romney seeking now to do what was the unthinkable just a few years ago – to restrict access or eliminate access to birth control itself.
In 1994 we had reached a national bipartisan consensus on eliminating violence against women and passed with bipartisan support the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which won bipartisan reauthorization in 2000 and 2006. Now, however, the House Republicans have passed, in a nearly party-line vote, a VAWA that will set even this issue backward, giving a dangerous level of rights to the accused and taking away longstanding rights and protections from the victim. Romney, in his 2008 presidential race, said he wasn’t even “familiar with VAWA,” and still has not said whether he supports the bipartisan VAWA passed by the Senate this year.
This Republican War on Women is pushing a record number of women to run for Congress. Right now, according to the Center for American Women in Politics (CAWP), part of the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, we are on track to have more women running for Congress than ever before. Using CAWP figures, Democratic Incumbent House women running are double the number of Republican women (45D-22R). House Democratic women challenging incumbents are nearly double the number of Republican women challenging incumbents (63D-35R). The number of House Democratic women winning their primaries to House Republican women is 3 to 1 (85D-28R) and women still in the running for the House are Democratic to Republican 2 to 1 (136D-74R). According to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, 2012 may be the first time in history that a majority of the new Democratic members of Congress will be women.
The gender gap, which is the difference in the percentage of women versus the percentage of men supporting the presidential candidates, will be decisive in 2012. All year, regardless of the poll or pollster, Obama has benefited from large gender gaps with women favoring Obama by significant percentages – as high as 20% in a March Pew Research Center poll, likely spiked by the public debate over Obama Administration’s decision to cover birth control in the preventive care package for religiously affiliated institutions.
“When women’s issues are salient the gender gap widens,” concluded Smeal The Republican war on women’s issues, especially birth control and abortion, has spiked the gender gap all spring. As women become more familiar with what’s at stake, I expect the gender gap to be a deciding factor in the election.”###