The 2012 presidential election could rightly be called a showdown of opposing views as Democrats and Republicans stand miles apart when it comes to key women's issues.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden want to keep abortion legal, support legislation like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and funding for the Violence Against Women Act, and provide health care coverage for contraception.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan want to overturn Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion, block legislative efforts toward fair pay to reduce government intervention, and deny the contraceptive coverage that health care reform provides.
If your main concern at the voting booth is women's issues, particularly those that revolve around reproductive rights, you should know where the candidates stand:
If flip-flopping is seen as a character flaw in a presidential candidate, then it's clear why Republican nominee Mitt Romney is regarded with skepticism by the more conservative members of his own party. At one time a pro-choice politician, Romney had a change of heart while serving as governor of Massachusetts and has since gone on record as opposing abortion except in a few specific circumstances. Yet as the New York Times
reported, "He would not sign the pledge to make anti-abortion views a litmus test for presidential appointees in key agencies" -- a decision that rankles the religious right and threatens to cost him support.
Throughout his first term as President, Barack Obama has maintained the same position he held during his presidential campaign in 2008 -- he supports a woman's right to make her own reproductive decisions. The enduring legacy of this support can be seen in his two appointments to the Supreme Court -- Sonia Sotomayor
and Elena Kagan.
His pro-women, pro-choice views are reflected in a Supreme Court that's now one-third female for the first time in history.
For political, personal and religious reasons, Ryan is adamantly anti-abortion. His opposition to abortion even exceeds that of his running mate Mitt Romney in that Ryan does not believe in abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. Comments he's made including the statement that rape is "a method of conception"
indicate his extreme views on this controversial issue.
Joe Biden had said many times that he strongly supports Roe v. Wade and believes that during the first trimester, a woman should be able to choose to end her pregnancy without government intervention. He opposes public funding for abortion and supports federal funding for stem cell research (On the Issues: Joe Biden on Abortion)
Mitt Romney has never taken a firm, specific position on the issue of contraception and whether he believes in a woman's right to have access to -- or coverage of -- contraceptives. His political career reveals several about-faces on the issue of contraception, and while implementing health care reform in the state of Massachusetts while he was governor, he did not seem concerned about exemptions for religious institutions and their employees. However, as the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, he has expressed concern over this very issue.
During his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama was forthright in his belief that a woman should have access to contraception and that "contraception has to be part of the education process." He followed through in his first term by including full contraceptive coverage (at no cost to women)
as part of the Affordable Care Act
Like his running mate Mitt Romney, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has not come out with a specific and solid position on contraception. However, as a Catholic he follows the church's teachings and his support of fetal personhood legislation indicates he believes life begins at conception. Therefore it can be assumed that he is opposed to oral contraceptives such as the pill and the morning after pill. As a staunch anti-abortion advocate, he is also critical of Planned Parenthood and has voted repeatedly to defund the organization which provides family planning tools, education, and support to women.
Joe Biden on Contraception
Like his opponent Paul Ryan, Joe Biden is Catholic. And though he's expressed that he accepts the Catholic view that life begins at conception, he does not appear to be opposed to individual contraceptive use. He has voted for federal funding to reduce teen pregnancy through education and contraceptives, and supported legislation ensuring access to and funding for contraception (On the Issues: Joe Biden on Abortion)
. In the spring 2012 tug-of-war over the Affordable Care Act's mandate that insurance companies provide coverage of contraceptives to all women at no cost, Biden told Bob Schieffer of CBS News that those who attempt to proscribe that women cannot use birth control are "totally out of touch with reality...and the independence and the right of women to decide for themselves whether or not they want to use contraception" (Face the Nation April 1, 2012)