Once again a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health care has become a focal point in this election – and for good reason. The latest controversy focuses on the remarks of Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock who believes that women who are raped shouldn’t be able to terminate their pregnancy because God intended for the pregnancy to occur. This debate has broad implications because nothing less than the Roe v. Wade decision hangs in the balance.
Mitt Romney has staked out an aggressively anti-choice stance from the beginning of his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. To this day his website says that “he believes that the right next step is for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” pledges to end federal funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, and to reinstate the Mexico City Policy, a burdensome policy that undermines the efforts of international organizations to promote safe and effective family planning programs.
He has also gone further, proposing a fiscal plan that would completely eliminate Title X - the only federal program dedicated exclusively to family planning - taking a harder line stance than many other pro-life advocates.
But that's not Romney's only extremist position when it comes to a woman's right to make medical decisions about her own body. Last year, when Mitt Romney was asked by Mike Huckabee on FOX News whether, while governor of Massachusetts, he would have "supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life as conception" Romney replied, "absolutely." And it's hard to forget earlier this year, when he referred to morning-after pills as
"abortive pills" and referred to the president's health care provision providing free contraception as a "violation of conscience" at a rally in Colorado.
Perhaps Gov. Romney's most egregious attempt to appeal to anti-choice voters was his selection of Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.
Congressman Ryan proudly cosponsored the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" which only made exceptions for federally funded abortions in the case of "forcible rape," excluding victims of
"non-forcible rape" such as those who are victims of statutory rape, those who are raped while drugged, or those who have a limited mental capacity. Rape is rape, there are no valid distinctions. Congressman Ryan also cosponsored the "Sanctity of Human Life Act" - also known as a "Personhood Amendment" - which would define life as beginning at the moment of fertilization, effectively outlawing abortion, many types of birth control, and procedures like IVF that help couples trying to conceive.
When it comes to a woman's right to choose, the Romney-Ryan ticket is about as extreme as it gets.
During the presidential debates, Mitt Romney was dishonest when forced to discuss his views on contraception, leaving out that he would allow politicians and employers to control a woman's personal health decisions.
President Obama has made it clear that he believes that women's health decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not by their bosses or politicians. Obamacare ensures that women have access to birth control and stops insurance companies from charging women more than men for the same coverage. But Gov. Romney, if elected president, would repeal it on his first day in office.
The president is protecting a woman's right to choose, but Mitt Romney would take it away. He'd appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe vs. Wade and he'd defund Planned Parenthood, which millions of women rely on for contraception, breast cancer screenings and cervical cancer screenings.
Gov. Romney said that he once had "binders full of women," but I think he only has blinders when it comes to women. He refuses to see how critically important our health care decisions are to us. In recent U.S. history, there hasn't been a ticket as extreme on women's reproductive health care as the Romney-Ryan ticket.
With Election Day fast approaching, two groups that have been getting a lot of attention are Jewish and women voters. For Jewish women and those who care about women's rights, the presidential debates were frightening.
According to the 2012 Jewish Values Survey by the non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute, 95 percent of Jewish Democrats support abortion rights in all or most cases, along with 77 percent of Jewish Republicans. We need a leader who we know we can trust to protect a woman’s right to make her own decision, not Mitt Romney, who would take that right away.
We have been fortunate enough to have a president who over the last four years has not only supported, but advocated for, the reproductive rights of women. Through passing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama guaranteed the near-universal coverage of maternity and prenatal
care, the insurance coverage of birth-control without a copay, and better access to cancer screenings, mammograms and other preventative services. Further, he declared his support for the federal funding of Planned Parenthood earlier this year, stating that "I've got two daughters. I want them to control their own health care choices."
Abortion is a sensitive topic to discuss and one on which not everyone agrees. Nonetheless, the Jewish community seems to speak in virtually one voice on the issue of choice - it is a fundamental and important right that must not be taken away. Women must be able to have control over our own bodies. In order to protect this right from what is sure to be another four years of extreme attacks on a woman's right to choose, we need a strong leader in the Oval Office. For this pro-choice Jewish mother of three, the choice is clear – President Barack Obama will stand up for the rights of women of my generation, and that of my daughters.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee and represents Florida’s 20th congressional district.