You have probably heard about the dust-up over a comment Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen made about Ann Romney a few days ago. What Rosen actually said was that “you have Mitt Romney running around, saying, ‘Well you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues, and when I listen to my wife, that’s what I’m hearing.’ Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing.”
Of course the words Rosen chose were not good, but that does not mean the point she was trying to make wasn’t true. The fact is that Ann Romney had the luxury to choose to stay home to raise the family’s children, and she actually has no idea what it is like to struggle to make ends meet in a tough economy. That isn’t an insult; it is just a fact.
Of course it is no surprise that the right-wing media has been doing their best to paint the left (Obama) as hostile to traditional values (They hate motherhood, for goodness sakes!) A regular Fox contributor, Dr. Keith Ablow, provided an illustrative example of the discourse coming from the Right on the subject when he said: “Women who are happy raising families don’t have much ‘cred’ with Rosen or, for that matter, President Obama, because Rosen and Obama resonate only with those who carry the flag of the disenfranchised and abused. Anyone who thrives in an American company or American home, while proud and happy with any element of traditional American values, must be a hopeless automaton or relic of the oppressive past.” Yup, that is exactly what Rosen was saying, I’m sure.
Far from being concerned with women, of course the Right is concerned that Mitt Romney trails Obama by nearly 20 percentage points among likely women voters. And why does Obama have such a big lead among women voters? Well, as a man I don’t know that I am qualified to say, but I have a hunch it may have something to do with how Republicans have behaved with regards to issues that impact women particularly.
I found two (admittedly biased) sources detailing some of the Republican low-lights from the recent past with regards to women’s issues: Media Matters and MoveOn.org. Taking them for what they are worth, they are helpful in giving a broader picture of what types of measures Republican legislators across the country have been pushing for, (and all their sources are linked, so you can check them out for yourself). Here are just a few:
1) More than 150 Republicans signed on to a bill that would have redefined under what circumstances an institution receiving government funds could provide an abortion, replacing “rape” with “forcible rape”. With this language change, statutory rape, say a 13-year old impregnated by a 30-year-old for instance, would not qualify.
2) The Republican spending plan proposed to eliminated entirely Title X, which provides family planning for low-income Americans. And no, “family planning” is not just a code word for “abortions”, as birth control, pre-natal care, teen pregnancy prevention programs and other crucial health services are part of Title X.
3) The House GOP plan would also cut more than $750 million from food programs for low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies and children.
4) Republican lawmakers in Maryland cut Head Start funding, saying that it was not needed since mothers could just choose to stay home with their children instead. And at the federal level, Republicans cut $1 billion from the program, which could kick 200,000 low-income kids off the roles, and see some 55,000 instructors and teachers loose their jobs.
5) The Republican’s 2011 budget proposal cut $2 billion from job training programs, which are designed to help workers in low-wage, low-skill, and low-security jobs – disproportionately women – prepare for employment in growth areas.
6) Because women comprise more than two-thirds of the poor over age 65, Republican-proposed cuts in food, housing and job programs for senior citizens would disproportionately hurt elderly women.
7) The Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, signed a bill (passed along party lines) repealing the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court. "Economic security is a women's health issue," said Sara Finger, executive director of WAWH. "The salary women are paid directly affects the type and frequency of health care services they are able to access. At a time when women's health services are becoming more expensive and harder to obtain, financial stability is essential to maintain steady access."
As I said before, these are just a few examples of what types of actions Republican legislatures are taking all around the country with regards to issues that impact women the most (and I didn’t even mention the proposed laws that would force women seeking an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound first). So while we can all agree that a mother who has the ability to make a choice to stay home with her children is a good thing, I think the Republicans are going to need a lot more than a poor choice of words from a Democratic strategist to convince women they are actually on their side.