The two presidential candidates, and the political parties, have very different platforms on reproductive access and abortion. ( Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Decision 2012: How parties differ on women’s health, abortion and contraception

When it comes to issues of reproductive rights, abortion and women’s health, the two political parties have very different platforms.  Women’s issues have dominated a good part of the political coverage during this election season, and are now back in the news.

In the last few days, the differences are back in the forefront after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”  His campaign later said Governor Romney would support legislation aimed at “providing greater protections for life,” according to Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul, and Governor Romney did say on Wednesday in Ohio he is “a pro-life candidate.”

During his campaign, Governor Romney said he would “absolutely” support a constitutional amendment that would establish the definition of life at conception.  Governor Romney has stated the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v Wade, the 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Governor Romney has also said he would he would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, as has been done in several Republican-led state legislatures around the country such as Texas, and he proposes to eliminate Title X, the program which provides contraception and other health services to low-income women.

In terms of the Republican party platform, the recently approved document opposes abortion, and does not make any exceptions for rape, incest, or a mother’s health.  The GOP platform states “the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”  With respect to Republican political leaders, Republican legislators have 23 bills in Congress which seek to restrict abortion. Republicans seek to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and are opposed to the provision which ensures women’s contraception should be covered at no cost to the woman by her insurance plan.

Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Republican Latina who is active in the Romney campaign, supports Governor Romney’s and the Republicans’ stance on abortion and reproductive access. “I’m a pro-life activist, and this issue is close to my heart; this so-called ‘war on women’ is a made-up, faux argument, and being pro-choice is not the position of every woman,” Campos-Duffy says, adding, “I think Democrats are out of step with how Latinos feel on the issue.”

She supports the elimination of federal funds for Planned Parenthood clinics, saying that even though Planned Parenthood cannot use federal funding for abortion coverage, “it’s difficult to ensure all the firewalls are in place — and there are other clinics and places where women can obtain breast cancer screenings or care,” Campos-Duffy says.

President Obama and the Democrats have a very different platform. “Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor and her clergy,” states the Democratic party platform. “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay,” the document adds. The Democratic platform also states its support for affordable health care and education to “help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby reduce the need for abortions.”

As part of the Affordable Care Act, contraception is covered at no cost to the patient. Vanessa González Plumhoff, Director of Latino Leadership and Engagement for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, opposes Romney’s and the Republican’s platform restricting abortion, and supports Obama’s health care legislation providing contraception access. “The average Latina mom spends 600 dollars a year on birth control; this might be a drop in the bucket for Mitt Romney, but if you are working two or three jobs and trying to make ends meet, there is a real impact to this legislation,” she says.  González-Plumhoff says for all women, and especially for Latinas, reproductive issues are economic issues.

“Seventy four percent of Latinos agree that the government should not interfere with a woman’s choice in terms of reproductive health,” says González-Plumhoff, adding “Romney is underestimating Latinas, and we are paying attention.”

Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, criticizes recent Republican-led legislation at the state level which she says “chips away” at reproductive rights. “Texas, for example, has slashed family planning funding, and Florida is one of the states that has pushed for mandatory counseling that would require a woman seeking an abortion to make two trips to the doctor,” says González-Rojas. “I encourage all Latinas to pay close attention not only to what the presidential candidates have to say about reproductive care, but to the actions of their local leaders, as well.”

Both parties have been actively campaigning for women’s votes, and Latina women in particular are considered a key constituency.  A recent Latino Decisions poll found there is a Hispanic “gender gap” when it comes to the parties; 78 percent of Latinas say they trust Democrats “to make the right decisions and address issues of concern to women,” while only 13 percent favor Republicans.  The campaigns will be trying to appeal to women with about a month left before the elections.


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