Mitt Romney. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Dear Undecided Women Voters of America: It’s been fun watching you force the candidates to pay attention to the stuff men really don’t like to think about—equal pay and abortion and “legitimate rape” and all that. I love you, women! as Ann Romney likes to say. But we’re getting down to the wire now, and it’s time for you to make up your minds. Because face it, expecting to figure it out in the voting booth is not very considerate toward all the people who will have been waiting in line for hours to cast their ballot. Fortunately, despite Mitt Romney’s multiple, changing and contradictory statements, there are major differences between him and President Obama on all these issues.
Now, if you believe that the only issue that matters is the economy, and you believe that giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people and firing public sector workers is the way to fix it, you can stop reading right now. Ditto if you think all or almost all abortion should be a crime, Planned Parenthood should get no federal dollars, employers should decide whether employees get health insurance coverage for contraception (or anything else), and women should have a hard time suing for pay discrimination. But actually, if you believe those things, you are probably not all that undecided, are you? Fess up: you’re voting for Romney and just enjoy faking out reporters with your Mona Lisa smile.
Maybe, though, you support women’s rights, like most women—did I mention that the gender gap is huge this year?—but you think Romney is a moderate who is only pretending to be anti-choice and dim on equal pay. I can see why you might think that: you never know whether you’re going to get the Romney who campaigned for governor of Massachusetts as a pro-choicer and who today talks about how every woman should have access to contraception, or the Romney who claims he governed that bluest of blue states in a “severely conservative” fashion. He’s said so many different things over the years, it’s really hard to tell what he actually believes. What we do know, though, is that he has said he’ll “get rid of” Planned Parenthood funding if elected—that means cutting off more than 5 million low-income women from basic reproductive healthcare. He’s said he’ll overturn the Affordable Care Act and, specifically, that he supports the Blunt amendment, which would have permitted employers to exclude from coverage any kind of healthcare that offends their religious or moral convictions—birth control, prenatal care for single women, you name it.
Romney, in fact, supports banning abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or to save the woman’s life. He’s running ads that tout these exceptions as evidence of his moderation, but what kind of moderate wants to criminalize 93 percent of all abortions? Among those who would not be lucky enough to qualify for Romney’s exceptions are women carrying fetusus with fatal conditions, the mentally ill and pregnant women at risk for any injury short of death. In reality, Romney would criminalize most abortions for rape and incest victims, too, since most rapes and incest are not reported: in 2009, only 331 abortions were performed in the whole country that qualified for the Hyde amendment’s rape exception, under which federal funds can be used for low-income women’s abortions.