In the U.S. Election, Women Decide

Romney’s business prowess might be more convincing if it weren’t for that 47%, and his plan to limit a woman’s right to choose

Opinion | Alison Bethel | November 2012

As the hotly contested U.S. election comes to a head, America’s undecided voters – the majority of them women – are being bombarded in a last ditch effort to lure them to one camp or another.

Women, who are 46% of the electorate, will be out in force at the polls on 6 November.

Typically, women are not defined as an "interest group", in other words, a group of people acting together in support of a common interest or to voice a common concern. Women’s interests tend to vary depending on age, marital status and whether or not they have children.

Well, I have no children, am only recently married (three years) and am one of those 40-is-the-new-30 women – the category with Halle Berry, Salma Hayek and Janet Jackson – and I am troubled by this election.

I am more than disappointed with the dreadful state of the economy in the United States and, of course, for most it is easy to blame Obama and the Democrats. But as a former newspaper editor in Washington, I am keenly aware that Obama inherited the current mess that America finds itself in, and that the Republican members of Congress have made it their business to erect a political fence to block Democrats on a number of policies that might have helped Americans as a whole.

And yet … and yet … I cannot get over the fact that things are not improving at a rapid enough pace.

Mitt Romney is a businessman. He knows that better than he knows almost anything else, except maybe how to be a Mormon. He certainly is seriously lacking on knowledge of foreign policy.

But he makes a convincing argument on the economy and growth – a very important topic, even if his argument is short on details. It is convincing because we all want the economy fixed. And an economically healthy America means a healthier world.

But is Romney’s business prowess enough to get my vote and the vote of the majority of the 66.6% of women who are registered in the United States to vote?

For me, it might have been if it weren’t for his stance on abortion and his 47% remark – the number of Americans who believe they are victims. For my sisters, it depends on who you ask.

Women this year appear to be largely divided between those most concerned with social issues like reproductive rights and healthcare, and those whose primary focus is on the job market and the lagging economy.

I get how a single mom struggling to pay her bills and feed her children might be more focused on the economy rather than the reproductive issue. After all, she already has children.

But when the economy recovers – and it will – if as women we elect a man who is hell-bent on limiting a woman’s right to choose to have abortion or not, we will rewind the clock on women’s rights and regress to a time that many, many women worked hard to bring us out of.

Mitt Romney has promised to cut Federal funding to Planned Parenthood, a non-profit organization that is the U.S.’s largest provider of reproductive health, including contraception and cancer and HIV screening. It also provides maternal and child health services and serves a reported three million women a year.

That is not acceptable.

In an anti-Republican ad on YouTube, "Sex in the City" actress Cynthia Nixon goes right to the heart of the issue: "Make no mistake; this is the most relentless attack on women’s health in 40 years. Politicians have been playing ugly games with women’s lives. … November is just around the corner. Soon it will be our turn to vote."

It is our turn. It is my turn. And I, for one, will not give anyone permission to limit a woman’s choice – not on my watch.

Some women have pegged the economy as their hot button issue and have argued that Obama made promises in 2008 that he has not be able to keep, and the economy has continued to suffer. Overlooking the role of congressional Republicans in the stalemate, they argue it’s time for change.

Well, change can be good, but not when it leads back to a time when biology was destiny, and the ability to bear children defined everything else in a woman’s life.


Alison Bethel is the Executive Director of the International Press Institute in Vienna, former Washington D.C. Bureau Chief of the Detroit News, and assistant City Editor of the Boston Globe.

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