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US feminists fighting against “anti-women” Republicans

Nov 1st, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News


By Melissa Wastney and Erin Kavanagh-Hall

ABORTION, contraception and workplace rights are key issues worrying three US feminists who do not want a Republican victory in next week’s presidential elections.

They are concerned that gains made by the Obama administration will be eroded should Mitt Romney become president.

The three answered NewsWire questions via email and Facebook.

New York City-based legal recruiter and actress Andrea Steiner says she is “alarmed and disturbed” by the Republican Party’s attitudes to women and women’s issues.

“I will never understand how a political party that claims to want the smallest government possible, with the least interference in the daily lives of all free Americans, could be so adamant about wanting to legislate women’s bodies and make intimate and personal health decisions for them.”

Ms Steiner says while critics of Romney have said attacking women’s reproductive rights is a distraction from the “real issues”, many more have acknowledged family planning is an important economic issue.

“The GOP (Republican Party) pays a ton of lip service to ‘family values’, yet that party strongly supports eliminating social programs that would enable more Americans to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.

“That party also supports not allowing birth control to be covered by health insurance, making it difficult and even impossible for many women to plan their families for when they are most financially and emotionally capable.”


Feminist, Size Acceptance blogger and ballroom dance champion Ragen Chastain (left), currently based in Los Angeles, says she is concerned about Romney’s future plans to criminalise abortion in the US.

“I believe that a woman should not be forced to incubate a foetus to produce an unwanted child,” says Ms Chastain.

“I believe that abortion should be an option and that if people are against abortion they should focus on providing the access necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.”

Ms Chastain says research shows the most effective way to prevent unplanned pregnancies is to provide education based on scientific fact, provide free access to contraception and to create an environment of zero tolerance for sexual assault.

The latter comment refers to Republican Senator Richard Mourdock’s comments on rape and pregnancy.

“The Republican platform suggests that we do the precise opposite of what the research indicates, thereby increasing unwanted pregnancies, then remov[ing] the option to abort, thus forcing women to incubate foetuses against their will.”

Planned Parenthood under threat by Romney

In October, Romney promised to cut the funding to Planned Parenthood, an organisation founded in the 1940s, which provides an array of women’s health services including abortion and mammograms and cervical screening.

“I’ve said time and again that I’m a pro-life candidate and I’ll be a pro-life president. The actions I’ll take immediately is to remove funding for Planned Parenthood.”

PROTECT WOMEN: A woman shows her support for Obamacare in front of the Surpreme Court in Washington DC

Planned Parenthood has an action group that lobbies for sex education, access to contraception and affordable healthcare.

On its website, it states: “This past year, we have been witnessing the most aggressive legislative attacks on women’s health and rights in a generation.

“Lawmakers have introduced more than 1000 reproductive health bills in legislatures across the country, the majority of which seek to undermine women’s health.”

Barack Obama remains a supporter of Planned Parenthood.

Ms Steiner says she is concerned by Romney’s plans to cut funding to Planned Parenthood

“If abortion is made illegal, Planned Parenthood is defunded, and women are not allowed access to birth control, the financial cost of dealing with unplanned pregnancies will be extremely high. And ultimately, who is going to have to make up the difference? The American taxpayer.”

Civil rights a pressing concern for feminists

Seattle mother and community worker Carrie Sanford says she worried about civil rights issues.

“I’ve been unhappy with previous conservative administrations, but the stance the Romney/Ryan ticket has taken on women’s rights as well as gay rights downright scares me.

“They would reverse Roe V. Wade, they would reverse any chances our gay brothers and sisters have to be seen as equals to straight people in their relationships, they would take this country back in time.”

As well as gay rights, Ms Sanford believes that civil rights is a wider principle.

“Money comes and goes and can be looked at a million different ways. . . civil rights are pretty black and white to me. . . you support them or you don’t. I happen to choose to support them.”

Ms Chastain, who says she is bisexual, is also concerned about civil rights leading up to the election.

“Specifically, Romney has just stated that he thinks that things like hospital visitation and inheritance are ‘privileges’ and not ‘rights’ and, as such, each state should get to decide if a same sex partner has the right to visit their loved one in the hospital,” she says.

“I find this even more egregious than the opposition to gay marriage because the only reason to deny someone visitation to a loved one in the hospital is to be cruel.”

Workplace rights for women still an issue

Ms Sanford says she is worried about access to childcare for working mothers under Romney.

EQUAL PAY: Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law

“The Republican ticket seems to want every American working outside of the home, but at the same time, wants to cut funding to Head Start (an early childhood program for low-income families).

They want to have their cake and eat it too. Work, they say, but don’t expect us to help you with childcare.”

Ms Steiner is concerned about the issue of fair pay, particularly given that Mr Romney opposes the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

“It seems ridiculous that in 2012, women are still making 77 cents to every dollar that a man makes.

“To deny the value of women’s careers and their contributions to the workplace is extremely insulting.”

Obama’s record approved by US feminists

All three women NewsWire spoke with say they will be giving their vote to Obama, and are satisfied with how the Obama administration has catered to women so far.

“I feel that they’ve done relatively well,” says Ms Chastain.

“I am glad that the incessant Republican attack on women has caused Obama to stand up and clarify his position.”

The White House website has published a list of changes it says have benefitted women under the Obama administration, which include tax credits for working families and solo mothers, expanded opportunities for women-owned businesses and iniatives to prevent violence against women.

FRIEND OF WOMEN: Obama at a Rally in Seattle, Washington

Under President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act, from 2014 it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against women with pre-existing conditions, and health plans will be required to cover the cost of pregnancy.

Feminist organisation the National Organization of Women has been vocal in its support of President Obama, distributing fliers reiterating his support of reproductive health rights, preventing violence against women and closing the gender pay gap.

In contrast, the same fliers cite Romney’s plans to overturn abortion laws and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, that he has no comment to make on equal pay, and that his running partner Paul Ryan voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

In a press release of October 17, following one of the presidential debates, the organisation expressed frustration that Romney failed to address solutions that would advance equal pay for women.

The release said: “…he fell back once again on his claim that ‘I know what it takes to make an economy work’.

“In other words, Romney’s magic answer is that he’s going to create more jobs, and for the first time in history, women will be paid the same as men for those jobs without any prodding. Color me skeptical.

“In fact, many of Romney’s budget policies are job killers for women, such as his plan to slash funding for social programs that disproportionately serve and employ women.”

Protect women:

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act:

Seattle Rally:



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is a Whitireia journalism student, most passionate about the arts and social justice issues. Sometimes, she even combines the two.
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