Republicans have been taking a curious tack in defending accusations of their “war on women.” Instead of arguing flat-out that their women’s health policies are beneficial to, or supported by, women, they argue that women won’t vote on issues such as contraception. Therefore, they’ve concluded, their views on women’s health won’t matter.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R) went on The View early this week arguing that “women don’t care about contraception.” And on Wednesday, in his speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, presidential candidate Mitt Romney said:
In the final analysis I will win by having the support of men and women, in the battleground states and across the country. That will be by focusing on the issues that women and men care most about. My wife has the occasion to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy, and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves. They are concerned about gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work, taking their kids to school, or to practice and so forth.
It’s telling that the Republicans won’t stand up for their views on contraception — which they want to severely limit or eliminate. But polling and analysis show that women will indeed vote on women’s health issues. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll of swing state voters, “women voters, by a 20-percentage-point margin, 55% to 35%, are significantly more likely than men to rate government policies relating to birth control as important.” This same poll pointed to a female-driven bump in favor of President Obama.
But moreover, women’s health issues affect each of the categories that Republicans have deemed (and, yes, polls have confirmed) will define the election: Health care, the economy, and the federal budget/national debt are all in some way tied to that “retro debate” on women’s health.
Contraception affects each of those categories– and here’s how:
Contraception is good for the economy. Access to contraceptives has afforded women the opportunity to hold off on having children until they’re ready, giving them a chance to have a career. Subsequently, the American economy has grown by 25 percent: Women held 37 percent of all jobs in 1979– they now hold almost half. And it’s not over. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women are “projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018.”
Access to contraceptives has helped women make more money. Contraceptives help grow women’s wages, and bring us closer to pay equality. The gender pay gap shrunk significantly — by 30 percent — because of the pill. While it’s still not up to snuff, denial of access to contraceptives wouldn’t help the pay gap close. Add to that the expense of birth control, and women’s wallets could be a lot lighter.
Birth control saves taxpayers money and reduces America’s debt. A Brookings report “estimate[s] that taxpayer spending on Medicaid-subsidized medical care related to unintended pregnancy totals more than $12 billion annually.” By decreasing unplanned pregnancies, there are fewer mothers who look to the government for assistance.
Contraception is health care. Women strongly consider health care one of the most important political issues, so then it’s only natural that contraception should be too. Access to contraception not only controls cost of women’s health care by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, it is used as a medication for ovarian cysts, certain types of cancer, early menopause, severe acne, extreme cramps, and many other health complications women face.