Women’s Rights Takes Center Stage at DNC


Eileen Smith

Why are we having to fight in 2012 against politicians who want to end access to birth control? It’s like we woke up in a bad episode of Mad Men.—Cecile Richards at the Democratic National Convention, September 6, 2012

If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.—Don Draper

This week’s Democratic National Convention showed why a majority of women voters say they’re for Obama. From equal pay to comprehensive health care to reproductive rights, the Democratic Party this election seems a lot less hostile to women than the GOP. There was no need for the first lady to pull an Ann Romney and proclaim like a cheerleader with a megaphone, “I love women!” In their party platform, Republicans can’t mask their utter lack of respect for women and their firm belief that women are completely incapable of making responsible choices.

As for the war on reproductive rights, Texas is quite literally ground zero. On Tuesday, the Department of State Health Services held a public hearing concerning the state-funded Women’s Health Program and the subsequent defunding of Planned Parenthood. The controversial ban, approved by the Legislature last session, was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge before being appealed by Attorney General Greg Abbott.

In her remarks Wednesday night, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards praised the Obama for “trusting women” on everything from health insurance to contraception. (If elected Mitt Romney has pledged to cut all federal family planning funds to the organization.) Instead of focusing on abortion, which makes up a tiny portion—3 percent, according to its most recent annual report—of Planned Parenthood services, Richards expanded upon the organization’s overall mission to provide access to affordable health screenings and contraception.

But Texas can’t see beyond that 3 percent, despite the fact that current federal and state law already prohibit tax dollars from funding abortions. And many other states are following suit, with like-minded anti-woman initiatives such as mandating invasive transvaginal sonograms for women seeking abortions.

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Richards warned, “If you want to see what a Romney presidency might be like, look at Texas.”

The Republican party platform opposes abortion across the board, even in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother. It also includes the so-called “human life amendment” (also known as the “personhood amendment”), which would overturn Roe v. Wade and possibly affect such fertility treatments as in vitro fertilization.

Meanwhile, as Bloomberg View columnist Margaret Carlson pointed out, the Democrats have removed the sentence “Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare” from its party platform for the past two elections. Being pro-choice should never be confused with being pro-abortion. No one wants to see more abortions. But unfortunately the pro-life movement is also anti-contraception and anti-sex education (unless it’s abstinence-based), all of which leads to more unplanned pregnancies.

Of course, women’s health is broader than one organization or one issue. Almost every speech at the convention highlighted the Affordable Care Act and its impact on women regarding preexisting conditions, gender discrimination and preventive services. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, embraced the plan she called a badge of honor:

Before Obamacare, some [insurance companies] wouldn’t cover women’s most basic needs, like contraception and maternity care, but would still charge us up to 50 percent more than men. They said women who had C-sections or survived breast cancer or even domestic violence had “pre-existing conditions.” But this president made it illegal to discriminate against women… Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. That’s what change looks like.

It’s hard to argue with that, no matter where you stand on abortion.