In the 2010 midterm elections, the gender gap disappeared for the first time since the Reagan era. More Republican women were elected to the House than ever before, and four out of six current female governors are Republicans. In 2010, Republicans won the women's vote over Democrats by 49 percent to 48 percent, exit polls showed. Ever since, the Democratic political strategy has been to make female voters, who comprise more than half the electorate, their No. 1 target. The stakes are high: Democrats can't afford to lose the women's vote again if they expect to keep the White House and the Senate. This fall, Republicans need to pick up only four seats to take control of the Senate.
The problem for Democrats is they can't run on their record: The poverty rate among women is now the highest it's been in nearly two decades; 5.2 million women are unemployed. According to the National Women's Law Center, of the 2.7 million jobs created since 2009, only 567,000 have gone to women.
That explains why the Democrats jumped so quickly when the Republican nominee for the Senate from Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin, made offensive remarks about rape.
And while Republicans across the board called for Akin to withdraw from the race, Democrats were moving even faster. Liberal pundits on cable television were gleeful as the controversial clip played over and over. President Obama, trying to keep a straight face, held his first press conference in months in order to express his outrage. The "Republican war on women" was back on.
Not so fast. Let's take a look at five myths the left is selling about Republicans and women. If Tim Pawlenty can call Obama's policies "all foam and no beer," we might say that the so-called war on women is all dressing and no salad. All toast and no chicken salad. All frosting and no cupcake. You get the idea. Here's what they're saying:
If you are pro-life, you are anti-woman. The left's premise is that men like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan who are pro-life are anti-woman. But that doesn't account for the fact that more women are pro-life than pro-choice, according to Gallup. It makes no sense to claim that women who are Catholics, Christian evangelicals, Hispanic, or African-American, for example—many of whom consider themselves pro-life—are all opposed to women's rights. The left also doesn't take into account that the majority of Americans, from both genders, are pro-life. Gallup also reports that for the first time this year, 51 percent of Americans find abortion "morally wrong," with 38 percent finding it "morally acceptable." The number of Americans who identify themselves as "pro-choice" is at a record low, and a majority now call themselves "pro-life," with the biggest change coming among independents. Most Americans are pro-life, and I'd bet very few consider themselves "anti-woman."
Republicans believe that men should control women's bodies. "We shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women," Obama said at his war-on-women press conference. Agreed. Yet under his Affordable Care Act, 15 unelected members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board will now decide which medical treatments will get federal funding, decisions that could affect millions of women. And don't forget that his individual mandate tells women which kind of health coverage they can buy. Contrast that with Ryan's Medicare premium support plan, which would give women a choice of Medicare or private insurance.
Republicans want to take contraception away from women. Nobody is arguing that women should be denied access to contraception. The question is whether it should be provided free, should be paid for by taxpayers, and should be mandated for religious employers who find it a violation of their beliefs. It wasn't Republicans who ordered this change; it was the president's administration. Since that decision, polls have shown that the majority of Americans disagree with his stance and believe there should be the sort of religious exemption there has been in the past.
Republicans do not support "equal pay for equal work." All those female Republican governors, senators, and House members would not belong to a party that opposed equal pay for women. The fact is that equal pay for equal work has been federal law for decades; the Lilly Ledbetter Act and the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act change the burden of proof to benefit trial lawyers and hurt small businesses. Thirty percent of all businesses are owned by women—and Republicans sided with them, not trial lawyers.
Republican cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will hurt women. On the contrary, most women would prefer to see entitlements put back on solid footing for their own retirement years. Social Security is projected to exhaust its reserves in 2033, the year I turn 70. "Ending Medicare as we know it" by enacting reasonable changes to occur 20 years from now to keep it financially sound is just fine with me. Women make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions in America; many of us are depending on Medicare and Social Security to stay solvent as we make those decisions for our families. Romney and Ryan have a plan for entitlement reform; it's painfully clear Obama does not.
I and most women I know want to be empowered to pursue our own opportunities and, unlike the character in Obama's "Julia" campaign, live our lives free of too much bureaucracy. We want to leave our children free of debt and deficits, with a smarter, smaller government. Republicans may still have a way to go to win women's votes, but when it comes to a "war on women," in the words of Gertrude Stein, there is no there there.
- Read the U.S. News Debate: Will the New Focus on Abortion Help Democrats in the 2012 Election?
- Read Rober Schlesinger: Media, Romney Adviser Spar About Welfare, Truth, and Race Baiting
- Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.