October 17, 2012 — During the second presidential debate on Tuesday, President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made a concerted effort to increase their appeal to female voters, the New York Times reports (Rutenberg/Zeleny, New York Times, 10/16).
Obama said that compared with President George W. Bush, Romney has "gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy," such as by pledging to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood (Morgan, Reuters, 10/17). Obama mentioned Romney's position on Planned Parenthood at least four times, according to the Times (New York Times, 10/16).
"Gov. Romney feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making. I think that's a mistake," Obama said. He noted that women "rely on" Planned Parenthood for preventive services, adding, "That's a pocketbook issue for women and families."
Obama also critiqued Romney's position on contraception (Burns, "Burns & Haberman," Politico, 10/16). The president touted the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and the federal contraceptive coverage rules and criticized Romney's support for the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers and insurers to refuse to comply with any of the ACA's requirements for religious or moral reasons (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/16).
Romney called Obama's remarks regarding his position on contraception "completely and totally wrong," adding that he does not believe that "bureaucrats in Washington" or employers "should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not." He said, "Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives" (Abcarian, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 10/16).
Romney also claimed, "There are three and a half million more women living in poverty today than when the president took office. We don't have to live like this" (New York Times, 10/16).
Earlier in the day, Romney released a new advertisement attempting to appeal to female voters on the issues of contraception and abortion. A woman in the ad says Romney "doesn't oppose contraception at all" and "thinks abortion should be an option in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother's life" (Peters, "The Caucus," New York Times, 10/16).
Candidates Discuss Equal Pay
Obama and Romney also responded to a question regarding pay equity for women. Obama highlighted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (PL 111-2), the first piece of legislation he signed into law, which removed time limits on filing wage discrimination suits.
Romney responded to the question by recalling his efforts to seek out women for his administration when he was governor of Massachusetts ("Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 10/16). "I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks,' and they brought us whole binders full of women," he said (Zengerle, Reuters, 10/17).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership