From freshmen to seniors, from pre-collegiettes to graduates, from a cappella singers to sorority sisters – whoever you are, the issues of birth control and abortion impact each and every young woman in this country. Whether you’ve ever purchased a birth control pill, debated with friends about the morality of abortion, or had a family member go to Planned Parenthood for a breast cancer screening, as a young woman you are inevitably affected by the discussion and status of women’s sexual health in this country. Issues of women’s reproductive health have forced their way to the forefront of the presidential election, and it is discouraging and a little disconcerting how few women are included in the conversation at the highest level, the Sandra Flukes of the world notwithstanding. This November, our vote is our microphone. The support of strong and informed female voters can be invaluable to a presidential candidate, so here is what you need to know to rock the vote.
At this time, abortion is legal everywhere in the United States, as a result of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973). The laws vary in specifics across state lines , dictating who can perform the procedure, what funds can be allocated to abortion, and when a woman can legally terminate her pregnancy. Here are a few staggering statistics to add to your day: According to Planned Parenthood 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old. The Guttmacher Institute reported that while the number of overall abortions have decreased in the last decade, the majority of women having abortions are in their 20s, and the number of abortions among lower income women has increased significantly by 18 percent. Abortion has always been a particularly divisive topic in the United States, especially around election time. Between the self-proclaimed pro-choice and pro-life camps the debate about the morality of abortion itself and the constitutionality of the ruling legalizing the procedure is alive and well.
What hasn’t historically been a hot button issue until now is the issue of birth control. While originally considered taboo, in recent years using any kind of birth control to prevent pregnancy has become “settled social behavior” practiced by an estimated 62 percent of women of childbearing age in America. President Obama’s sweeping healthcare legislation has unearthed an argument that has less to do with the perceived merits or immorality of birth control, and more to do with the constitutionality of requiring institutions to cover the cost of birth control.
While this general election hinges on several issues, women’s issues in particular have become a major part of the campaign discussion. Both President Obama and GOP nominee Governor Mitt Romney have delineated where they stand on birth control and abortion, and like many things between the two candidates, their views are poles apart. With 60 days, four debates, and a whole lot of advertising airtime left in this race, it’s important that you get a handle on the issues before the ballot boxes close.
President Obama’s Plan
Overview: It is no secret that throughout his second presidential campaign President Obama has had a strong base of women supporters, and has always described himself as a “strong advocate for women and a defender of issues that are important to women and their families.” The president’s general stance is that women rely on preventative sexual healthcare from programs like Planned Parenthood and that it is the responsibility of the government to provide or find funding for these types of programs. Ultimately, however, President Obama has said that the government should not interject itself into conversations that should take place solely between a woman and her doctor.
Birth Control: In 2010 President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, which stipulates that starting August 1st, 2012, many insurance plans must fully cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles. This practice, while considered controversial by many, will make preventative medicine more affordable for millions of women in America.
Abortion: President Obama has supported a federal funding ban on abortions, meaning that under his administration and healthcare plan no federal tax dollars will go to paying for abortions, unless it is a case of rape, incest, or the life of the woman is at risk. He is also supportive of Roe v. Wade, calling on its commitment to keeping government out of a woman’s sexual health, something he considers a “private family matter.”
Collegiette View: “President Obama understands the necessity of affordable and easy access to birth control for a woman’s sexual health. Nothing should be more important to women right now than the ability to control their own bodies and make personal decisions about their own reproductive health.” Stephanie, Dartmouth College ’15
Mitt Romney’s Plan
Overview: When discussing abortion and birth control, rather than framing them as solely women’s issues, former Governor Mitt Romney argues in favor of values and a moral code that protects family, life, and religious freedoms. Though his stance on abortion has evolved over time, he has landed on a solidly pro-life position, and believes that the conscience of America cannot continue to support abortion. Regardless of his own personal views, however, he believes that decisions regarding a woman’s sexual health should not be decided or funded on a federal level.
Birth Control: One of the loudest opponents of the Affordable Care Act, former Governor Mitt Romney has expressed that one of the main tenants of his presidency would be devoted to repealing the healthcare legislation, along with the mandate for insurance companies to provide free birth control. Romney’s main objection to the mandate is that forcing companies to provide insurance that provides free contraception to their employees infringes on their religious freedoms. While the legislation exempts churches from offering insurance that covers contraception, religious affiliated hospitals, universities, etc. are not exempt, despite religious objections.
Abortion: Romney is solidly pro-life. While he supports the use of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s life, he believes that “Americans have a moral duty to uphold the sanctity of life and protect the weakest, most vulnerable, and most innocent among us.” Romney, like Obama, supports the ban on federal funding for abortions. As president Romney would also end federal funding to places that support abortion, like Planned Parenthood.
Unlike President Obama, Romney opposes Roe v. Wade and supports the decision being overturned. Romney recognizes Roe v. Wade as an act of “judicial activism,” believing the Supreme Court overstepped their positions, deciding a matter that should have been decided democratically. Under a Romney administration, abortion laws would be in the hands of the states to decide.
Collegiette View: “I side with Mitt Romney on this issue because of his commitment to realigning the moral compass in America. Abortion, which should be a last resort, is too rapidly becoming all too accepted. It should not be up to the federal government or the Supreme Court to legalize abortion, especially when so many people are against it.” Catherine, Harvard College ‘15
So, why should you care about all of this? Whether you’re a budding politico with your nose persistently buried in the Washington Post or an uninterested member of the electorate, under the impression that a filibuster is a type of Swifer mop – as a collegiette these issues definitely concern you. Regardless of which side of the aisle you fall on, understand how your vote will impact the future of issues like birth control and abortion. We get it; they’re not the most comfortable of topics, devoid of any of the levity of party chitchat. But chitchat about it we must, because these issues could not be more pertinent to collegiettes.
Let us know your thoughts about the candidates’ positions on birth control and abortion in the comments!