What this election will teach our students about women’s rights
by Amanda Litvinov/photo by Norman Y. Lono
If Mitt Romney is elected president, it’s reasonable to expect that his attitude toward women’s rights will be very much like his approach to most other issues: It’s a hostile takeover.
That’s something GOP candidate Romney knows plenty about from his years at the helm of Bain Capital — whose typical strategy was to lure company heads on board with bonuses, then stick the companies with loans they couldn’t begin to pay back, forcing them to liquidate assets, fire workers, and in some cases, shutter their doors forever. Captain Romney and his crew were not concerned with the fate of the people who worked at the companies they looted — it was all about Bain’s bottom line.
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As a presidential candidate, Romney seems to apply the same mindset when it comes to issues that affect women: Why support equal pay for women if it makes the workforce more expensive? Why trust women to make their own health care choices if it angers your wealthiest campaign backers? Why pledge to uphold health care reforms that make premiums as accessible to women as they are to men if you have more to gain by upholding the interests of the tens-of-billions-of-dollars a year insurance industry?
The bottom line for voters is that the outcome of the 2012 presidential election represents a clear choice: We vote for progress in women’s rights, or we tell the world and future generations that America decided gender equality just isn’t worth the expense.
The Fair Pay Act
The first piece of legislation that President Barack Obama signed into law when he took office in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which reinstates protections against pay discrimination. When Romney’s campaign policy director was asked whether Romney supported the legislation, she froze, then replied, “We’ll get back to you on that.”
Hear Lilly Ledbetter talk about the law that bears her name.
Lilly Ledbetter, an equality activist who took on Goodyear Tire for pay discrimination, responded, “Anyone who wants to be president of the United States shouldn’t have to think about whether they support pursuing every possible avenue to ensuring women get the same pay for the same work as men. Our economic security depends on it.”
Though Romney surrogates have said the GOP candidate supports pay equity, many have gone on the air to attack the Ledbetter Act, calling it “a nuisance” (former Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra) and “a handout to trial lawyers” (N.H. GOP exec Tory Mazzola). Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whom Romney has called “a hero,” and “a man of courage,” succeeded in repealing his own state’s equal pay law.
President Obama’s stand on the Ledbetter Act is significant, as is his pledge to continue fighting for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would address the fact that women still make 77 cents for every dollar that men make.
“Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars,” said Ledbetter addressing the Democratic National Convention earlier this month. “But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t just be measured in dollars.”
President Obama has made it clear he fully embraces the term “Obamacare”: “It’s true, I care,” he quipped at campaign stops this summer.
As portions of the Affordable Care Act have taken effect, women have gained remarkably improved access to health care and more choices were placed in their hands rather than the companies that insure them.
Gone are the days when insurance companies can charge women more for their premiums just because of their gender, and the Affordable Car Act affords women unprecedented free access to eight crucial services that can help doctors catch and treat serious conditions while they are still in the early stages. These include screenings for cancer, high cholesterol, and gestational diabetes, as well as access to family planning resources and domestic violence counseling. Before “Obamacare,” too many women would forgo these services because they could not afford the associated copays and lab fees, and sought medical attention only when their medical problems had progressed to more dangerous stages.
A report issued in August by the Department of Health and Human Services states that approximately 47 million women will benefit from these preventive services alone. Other aspects of the Affordable Care Act prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions or dropping them if they get sick and has provided vastly improved coverage for children and young adults.
Texas high school teacher Wendy Bozarth says the law likely saved the life of her oldest son. Because the law allows her to keep him on her insurance until the age of 26, he was able to receive the intensive rehabilitation and counseling he needed to overcome substance abuse issues that threatened his life.
“Had it not been for the insurance, it would have been a really tough situation,” said Bozarth.
Despite all the positive effects of the Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney has sworn that if he is elected, “Obamacare — I’ll get rid of that on day one.” His reasoning? It’s “bad law” that we “certainly can’t afford.” He says he would replace it with his own plan, but has given conflicting answers that give no details, making it hard to deduce just how much women would lose in the deal.
One thing women would surely lose in a Romney-Ryan administration is control over their most personal health care choices: Romney and Paul Ryan have pledged to do in Planned Parenthood, an essential health resource for women nationwide, and both have backed proposals for a hostile takeover of women’s right to choose, outlawing abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
Violence Against Women Act
Although the Violence Against Women Act has been credited with reducing domestic violence rates by more than half since its passage in 1994, Senate Republicans dug in their heels against the bill’s reauthorization this spring. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said he and his GOP peers simply did not believe expanding the law’s protections to safeguard and assist more women — those who are immigrants, Native American, or gay — is worth the money it would cost.
“The idea that only certain people are worthy of the full protections this law affords goes against all that we teach our students and our own children about American values,” said Lily Eskelsen, an elementary teacher from Utah and current vice president of the National Education Association.
Though both the House and Senate went on to pass a version of the bill, they have yet to be reconciled.
President Obama has been unwavering in his support to end domestic violence, building protections into the health care reform and strongly urging Congress to pass VAWA. Vice President Joe Biden, who was instrumental in the original bill’s passage, issued a statement Wednesday, the Act’s 18th anniversary, expressing his dismay that it has not been reauthorized.
“While women and girls face these devastating realities every day, reauthorization of a strengthened VAWA languishes in Congress,” he said. “VAWA is just as important today as it was when it first became law, and I urge Congress to keep the promise we made to our daughters and our granddaughters on that day — that we would work together to keep them safe.”
Candidate Romney has said he supports legislation that protects women, but has never stated support for the Violence Against Women Act now languishing in Congress. Whether he, like Sen. Grassley, feels the bill comes with too great a price tag or too great a political price is unknown.
Share your stories! How have actions taken by President Obama and Vice President Biden in support of women’s rights affected you or your students? What are your fears about a hostile takeover of women’s rights under a Romney-Ryan Administration?
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