On MSNBC Wednesday, Kerry Healey, Mitt Romney’s Lieutenant Governor and a current surrogate for his campaign, called contraception a “peripheral” issue, and referred to women being denied contraception coverage because of religious objections a “hypothetical.”
Instead, she said, the focus of the campaign should be on the economy, because that’s “what women care about.” When pressed by host Andrea Mitchell on whether contraception is a “pocketbook issue,” Healey refused to say whether Romney supported employers’ right to deny their employees contraception coverage on religious grounds:
HEALEY: These are the issues we should be talking about. The question of whether or not we should force someone to give up their religious freedom to provide insurance coverage in some hypothetical situation, is not really the point most, and women out there — there are 5.5 million unemployed women in the country. Did we have a discussion last night? Did President Obama put out his plan about how to get those women back in the workforce last night? He did not. He has an empty binder when it comes to proposals about women in America.
MITCHELL: With all due respect, is it not a pocketbook issue for millions of women who depend on their insurance, their medical insurance that they get at work? If their employer says I have a moral or religious objective then they do not have access to contraceptives as Mitt Romney said last night they should have. That is a pocketbook issue. It’s dollars and cents. [...]
HEALEY: He made it clear that he believes in enforcing religious freedom in this regard but he also strongly supports women’s access to contraception and any effort to say he doesn’t –
MITCHELL: If they can pay for it on their own. If the women can pay for it on their own, if they have the means.
HEALEY: The problem here is that we are talking about these peripheral issues. We need to really be talking about employment, jobs, that’s what women care about.
Contraception, of course, is a critical economic issue for the many women who struggle to afford their birth control costs, as well as the women who struggle even more to support the children that result from unintended pregnancies. One in three women has reported struggling to pay for birth control at some point in their lives — and Mitt Romney’s policies would make it significantly harder for women, especially lower income women, to have easy access to affordable contraception that allows them to put off having children they cannot afford.
Healey’s comments echo those of Ann Romney, Mitt’s wife, who refused to comment on the topic of contraception, pivoting again and again back to the economy without connecting the two issues.