Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Women’s health and reproductive rights might be primary female motivation to go to polls in November

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What will the women of 2012 be pigeonholed into doing so that the election coverage can reduce them to a tiny Stepford Wives type box?

“Soccer mom” is so 2008. But in the recent furor over the Komen Foundation cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood, we could be seeing the seeds of what is to come in 2012.

One major criticism of liberals is that they need to be enthused to get to the voting booth. Conservatives are really good at holding their nose and voting, though to be fair, the rich ones get one of their help to hold their boss’ nose during the voting process.

Abortion access and reproductive rights would seem to be a battle that needs to be fought on an everyday basis, but too often, liberals look at Roe v. Wade and see success.

Meanwhile, those on the right have been tremendously successful at chipping away at abortion rights and targeting reproductive rights in this country. And as much as they scream about how evils abortions are, they know deep down that keeping abortion legal helps drive conservative voters to the polls as a cause celebre.

If you watched the reaction from women to the Komen/Planned Parenthood saga, you saw the passion needed on the left to rally support for Democratic politicians in 2012. Too often, liberals see the battle as being about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Rep. Cliff Stearns’ witch hunt investigation on Planned Parenthood, which started the dominoes fall, should be ample reminder of why the party that runs the House of Representatives is so important.

In 2008, we saw the most successful female presidential candidate and only the second female vice-presidential nominee. In 2012, we aren’t going to see women with that kind of visibility. Michele Bachmann only lasted through the Iowa caucus, and the GOP isn’t going to pick a woman for the #2 pick, even if they are tempted by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Still, women will be coveted … for their vote in 2012. Women’s health can be that catalyst to draw voters in November.

If Newt Gingrich is the Republican nominee, the Republicans drive to attract women to the polls would massively suffer. The GOP would hit new lows with female voters with Gingrich in the top spot.

Mitt Romney has married to the same woman for 46 years, putting him two steps ahead of Gingrich. All of Romney’s children are boys. Romney would do much better with female voters, especially in the general election, if we were seeing the 1994 or 2002 version of Willard Mitt Romney. As we’ve learned from the 2008 John McCain campaign, believing in what a candidate used to be will only break your heart.

The probable GOP nominee is shown on tape as being pro-choice, but he isn’t pro-choice any longer. He ran on being in favor of birth control, but as Massachusetts governor in 2005, Romney vetoed a bill to expand access to emergency contraception.

The Vanity Fair story about how Romney counseled his family’s former babysitter Peggie Hayes to give her baby up for adoption because she was not married ties in to authoritative white males in a dominant religious setting.

Mormons aren’t kind to equal rights for women, then again, most mainstream religions aren’t. While the voting public is familiar with Catholic misogyny, the Mormon version is lesser-known, and if Romney ends up as the nominee, more light will be shined on that topic.

“I also feel that the government should cut off funding to Planned Parenthood,” Romney said recently in a radio interview. Romney also wants to get rid of Title X. These are not female-friendly stances.

His stance on Planned Parenthood is harsher when you think about all the poor women whose only option for breast cancer screenings is Planned Parenthood, and Romney’s wife had a lumpectomy after her 2008 diagnosis of breast cancer. Ann Romney also struggles with multiple sclerosis, a disease more likely to affect women.

Even if you consider that Romney might be able to sway some female voters to his side, he will still have to go up against Barack Obama.

Only behind Bill Clinton, Barack Obama is the most female-centric president of modern times. Both were raised by single mothers and had only daughters. And unlike Clinton, Obama hasn’t had a whiff of scandal involving alleged affairs. This would be difficult to go up against, and we’re not even mentioning the ability to sing like the Rev. Al Green.

Obama is scoring extra points for requiring that religious institutions, if their primary purpose is not religious, to cover contraceptives in employee health plans. In other words, churches, where the primary purpose is religion, don’t have to cover contraceptives; hospitals, where the primary purpose is not religion, have to cover contraceptives.

Gingrich has made this about attacks on Catholicism, his latest religion. Romney has made this about religious freedom.

Catholic Church leaders made this about Catholicism, and made priests across the country read a letter from church leaders to their parishioners.

The best scenario is to not tie health care to employers, though you can see why conservatives like the tie-in so some can control the personal lives of their employees. Of course, individual religious freedom reigns since you aren’t required to use contraceptives even if you are covered for them.

Terrorism isn’t as important to women or men in 2012 as it was in 2004. The “soccer moms” of 2008 were worried about the economy, though not in the same way they are worried about the economy in 2012. And we might get a compelling angle more significant than women’s health/reproductive issues between now and November.

Not all women are on the pro-choice side and some women on either side of that issue are more concerned with the economy than reproductive rights or women’s health. This is why pigeonholing women is so messy. Women are complicated and also make up the majority of the population, even if we treat them as a “minority.” Like in 2008, the women of 2012 will be heard; this time, it will be just at the voting booth.


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