Last night’s presidential debate finally got around to tackling women’s rights issues, and the candidates’ answers were telling. But first, NOW applauds moderator Candy Crowley for “going rogue” by daring to ask President Obama and Mitt Romney clarifying questions, trying to keep them on point and even doing some real-time fact checking. Crowley was a genuine role model up there, for both women and men. And she presided over a debate with plenty of substance on which voters can chew.
When an audience member asked about equality in the workplace, President Obama rightly pointed to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as one of his signature achievements; he also talked about enforcing the laws on the books and refusing to tolerate discrimination. We just wish he had mentioned his strong support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is an essential part of closing the gender wage gap.
Mitt Romney’s mind, however, immediately went to ensuring that women in the workforce are able to get home in time to make dinner. Now, flex time is indeed an important issue to women working outside the home, but Romney failed to reference a single solution that would advance equal pay for women. Instead he fell back once again on his claim that “I know what it takes to make an economy work.” In other words, Romney’s magic answer is that he’s going to create more jobs, and for the first time in history, women will be paid the same as men for those jobs without any prodding. Color me skeptical. In fact, many of Romney’s budget policies are job killers for women, such as his plan to slash funding for social programs that disproportionately serve and employ women.
President Obama also used this opportunity to address access to health care and birth control, which he accurately stated is an economic issue for millions of women. The president noted that Romney has promised to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides a broad range of health services, including contraception, breast exams and screenings for cervical cancer. And he correctly pointed out that Romney opposed the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires health insurance companies to fully cover birth control. Romney tried to deny his position, but he is on record supporting personhood legislation, which would criminalize all abortion, and bills like the Blunt amendment that restrict access to contraception.
Perhaps the most outrageous claim of the night came when the candidates were asked about gun control. Mitt Romney had this to say: “We need moms and dads, helping to raise kids. Wherever possible the — the benefit of having two parents in the home, and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone, that’s a great idea.”
Romney throws in single dads for good measure, but what he’s really talking about here is single mothers. Eighty-five percent of single-parent households are headed by women. These women are struggling to get by, and they are going to suffer greatly if Mitt Romney is elected president. And now he wants them to feel responsible for gun violence, too? Shameful.
Coming out of this debate, the decision could not be clearer. President Obama is the right choice for those of us affected by women’s rights — in other words, everyone.