What’s at stake for women this election?

By Hannah Pingree, Special to the BDN
Posted April 20, 2012, at 3:38 p.m.

The general election campaign has begun, and from the start it is clear that Mitt Romney is no friend of women. Romney spent the Republican primary joining aggressive Republican attacks on women’s rights and now, in an effort to appeal to independent voters, Romney is attempting to hide his record on women by attacking President Barack Obama.

But it is no surprise that recent polls show that women — by significant margins — don’t trust Romney to stand up for them. Women voters are smart. We can’t be fooled into voting against our basic rights and the economic interests of our families.

When asked recently whether he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Romney

campaign tersely replied “we’ll get back to you on that.” Granted, some complicated questions do require careful consideration — but whether women should have the ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers is not one of those issues. If equal pay for equal work isn’t a no-brainer, what is?

There is no question where President Obama stands on this issue; the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation he signed as president. And both Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe supported the Fair Pay Act in the U.S. Senate.

Lilly Ledbetter herself responded last week to Romney’s failure to take a stand: “It took me more than 20 years to get an answer for the injustices that I suffered as an unfairly paid worker … Mitt Romney told me and millions of other women that he couldn’t commit to fighting

with us or for us.”

On the issue of a woman’s right to choose, Romney’s record is scary. He said the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, that he would “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, and that he supports legislation that would give basic women’s health decisions to their bosses.

On the issue of birth control, Romney even went so far as to launch a petition against the

federal Department of Health and Human Services for including birth control as a part of their basic preventive services in health care plans. Worse, he commented in a winter Republican debate that a nearly 50-year-old Supreme Court decision making it illegal for states to ban birth control (Griswold v. Connecticut) was wrong.

Romney boasts that he is the candidate to fix the economy, but he has no solid plan to accelerate job creation to strengthen the recovery. In fact, Romney’s plans include tax increases that disproportionately hurt women, raising taxes on 18 million working families, instead of asking the wealthy to pay their fair share.

Under President Obama’s leadership, women are gaining jobs during the recovery. Over the past 25 months, women have gained nearly 1.2 million private-sector jobs. And President Obama’s efforts have helped keep 400,000 teachers in classrooms and ensured that nurses and health care professionals stay on the job — measures that disproportionately support women workers. In addition, the president’s payroll tax cuts helped nearly 75 million working women bring more of their paycheck home during difficult times.

Mitt Romney joined congressional Republicans in opposing the Buffett Rule, a rule promoted by the president and spurred by Warren Buffett’s outrage that he was being taxed at a lower rate than his secretary. The Buffett Rule improves tax fairness by ensuring Americans who make more than $1 million a year can’t get special deals to pay a lower rate than middle-class families. Contrast that with Romney’s tax plan, which gives the average millionaire a $250,000 tax break.

Mitt Romney has spent months taking increasingly strong stands against women’s rights in an effort to appeal to his party’s extreme right wing. Maine women have to wonder: if he’s willing to throw women under the bus to win the GOP nomination, what will he be willing to do as president?

Hannah Pingree of North Haven is the former Speaker of the Maine House. She is the daughter of Democratic 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/04/20/opinion/whats-at-stake-for-women-this-election/ printed on July 26, 2014