September 6, 2012 — Reproductive-rights groups and their opponents both see advantages in highlighting their issues this campaign season, which has pushed women's health debates to the forefront of the 2012 election, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.
Candidates and advocacy groups have devoted nearly $16.8 million to abortion-related advertising during the 2012 election cycle, more than two-thirds of which has come from President Obama's campaign and his supporters, according to "Wonkblog." The amount is equal to the figure spent on Medicare-related ads and three times more than what was spent on immigration-related ads, according to the media tracking firm CMAG/Kantar Media. At the same point in the 2008 election, no presidential campaign ads had been devoted to women's health, CMAG noted.
Abortion-related issues "have been magnified, elevated and catapulted up to the presidential level," Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said. Marjorie Dannenfelser -- president of the antiabortion-rights group Susan B. Anthony List -- said, "There were fits and starts of this conversation in 2008," adding, "This time it feels more extended and like an issue that will move voters."
A convergence of factors since the 2008 cycle has helped bring women's issues to the forefront. Antiabortion members of Congress focused on prioritized cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, sparking a budget battle that threatened a government shutdown. The role of government in requiring contraceptive coverage also became a national debate.
Additionally, state-level proposals began to draw more attention. For instance, although multiple states already require ultrasounds before an abortion, a proposal in Virginia this year that could have required transvaginal ultrasounds sparked a national outcry (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 9/5).
Reproductive-Rights Advocates Speak at Convention
On Wednesday, reproductive-rights activist Sandra Fluke emphasized women's health issues and criticized the Republican Party's positions during a primetime speech at the Democratic National Convention, Reuters reports (Zengerle, Reuters, 9/6). Fluke received national attention earlier this year after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" and a "prostitute" for speaking out in favor of the federal contraceptive coverage rules (Khan, National Journal, 9/5).
During her convention speech, Fluke said reproductive rights would be threatened under a Republican administration (Mehta, Los Angeles Times, 9/5). She also warned of a situation in which women's "access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it" (DeLong, "Election 2012 Blog," Washington Post, 9/5).
Earlier, Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Cecile Richards said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would "turn the clock back on a century of progress" for reproductive rights (Cox, "Hill Tube," The Hill, 9/5). She said that women have "come too far" to give political control to lawmakers who "voted to end cancer screenings and well-woman visits for 5 million women, end funding for birth control at Planned Parenthood and ... tried to redefine rape" (Ramshaw, Texas Tribune/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/6).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended Obama's first term, saying that the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) made "health care a right, not a privilege" and "ensure[d] that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition" (Sherman, Politico, 9/5).
Sister Simone Campbell -- executive director of Network, a Roman Catholic group that serves low-income communities -- also spoke at the convention, despite her "pro-life stance," the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" reports. In June, Network launched a bus tour to oppose the budget proposal written by Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and protest the Vatican's reprimand of U.S. nuns for focusing too heavily on social justice issues and too little on abortion. Although she did not endorse Obama, Campbell said the Ryan budget "failed a basic moral test" because it would harm families living in poverty (Mundy, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 9/5).
Democratic Report Details House Votes on Women's Issues
House Republicans over the last two years have held 55 votes on policies that would "undermine women's health, roll back women's rights and defund programs and institutions that provide support for women," according to a report released on Wednesday by Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
According to the report, the Republican-led House held 17 votes on measures that would allow gender discrimination in health insurance plans and 11 votes on provisions that would reduce women's access to preventive care. In addition, 10 votes targeted abortion rights, while various others would cut key nutrition programs or weaken domestic violence or anti-discrimination laws, according to the report (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/5).
According to TPMDC, the report is intended to serve as a resource for Democrats arguing that the Republican platform is anti-women (Kapur, TPMDC, 9/5).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, 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