As part of Mitt Romney’s ongoing attempt to project all of his weakness onto President Obama, the presumed GOP nominee is accusing his general election opponent of waging a “war on women.”
Democrats have used the same charge to highlight Republicans’ systematic attacks on women’s rights, but Romney flipped the claim at a rally last night night, saying, “The real war on women has been the job losses as the result of the Obama economy.” He continued the attack on Fox News this morning, where he repeatedly went out of his way to attack Obama’s record on women:
ROMNEY: Over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president where lost by women. His policies have been really a war on women. … Women in particular suffered under this presidency.
The “92 percent” statistic that Romney cites is highly misleading. For one thing, it attributes to Obama job losses from January 2009 — a terrible month for jobs — before he was even sworn in as president, and long before his policies were enacted. If you count the entirety of the recession beginning in 2007, 39.7 percent of the jobs lost — less than half — were lost by women.
The reason women’s job losses are skewed towards the end of the recession is that the earlier job losses were largely in male-dominated industries such as construction. Women, meanwhile, tend to work in industries that have been hit harder on the back end of the recession, such as education and health care — public sector jobs that have been decimated by GOP austerity budgeting. Princeton University Professor Betsey Stevenson told Politifact that “in every recession men’s job loss occurs first and most, with unemployment rates for men being more cyclical than those of women’s.”
Meanwhile, Obama has enacted policies to help women, like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, designed to help close the pay gap between the genders. This morning, Romney’s campaign wouldn’t say if their candidate supports the law, which was blocked by Senate Republicans. In fact, the campaign couldn’t offer any coherent explanation for how Obama has waged a “war on women” at all.
On health care — which polls show is women’s number one issue, beating even the economy — Obama’s health reform law includes a number of provisions to help women women, such as free preventive services and better access to contraception, both of which were enacted over opposition from Republican lawmakers. Meanwhile, Romney has called for eliminating Planned Parenthood and restricting access to contraception.
Romney’s concern for women is a new development, likely spurred by very bad polling for him, as just last month he told a college student concerned about losing access to her insurance-covered contraception, “vote for the other guy.”