Campaigns fight for women’s votes, shift to economic focus

As Mitt Romney moves into the position of defacto GOP nominee for president, the fight for the votes of women continues to wage in polling, pundit comments and attacks from both parties about who is the best candidate for women’s issues. Earlier campaign fighting focused on healthcare and the debate over contraception, with some labeling the GOP legislative agenda as a “war on women.”

This past week that fight took on an economic twist. Fact checkers quickly pounced on Romney’s statement in a speech to a women’s owned business that 92.3% of jobs lost since Obama took office were held by women. Later in the week, Romney paused when asked if he supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which makes it easier workers to sue over gender pay disparity (earlier in the week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who Romney has expressed past support for, repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act.) Romney’s campaign later said he “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.”

But Democrats had their own share of fumbles with women this week, despite polls that show President Obama leading Romeny with female voters by double digit margins. Democratic strategist and former Obama adivsor Hilary Rosen criticized Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, as not being in touch with the economic issues facing women because she “never worked a day in her life.” Later, Bill Maher took the sentiment a step further, saying on his HBO show “What she meant to say, I think, was that Ann Romney has never gotten her ass out of the house to work.” Maher recently donated $1 million to a pro-Obama super PAC.

Mrs. Romney referred to the Rosen’s statement as an “early birthday gift” and was quick to retort that staying home to raise her five children was her own choice. President Obama included a statement in a campaign speech saying there is no tougher job than being a mom. Democatic operatives also put distance between the party of Rosen, who later retracted her “poorly chosen” words.

Want more about women’s role in the campaign this week? Check out these other sources:

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International Women’s Day, ‘war on women’ dominate week’s news coverage

This week women continued to be a featured angle in the presidential race, particularly in light of Super Tuesday’s primary results and the continued headline and discussion of the GOP’s “war on women.” Last week we looked at how this term was being used by Democrats as a fundraising tactic after comments from radio host Rush Limbaugh ignited bitter online protests and several advertisers pulling support from his show.

Photo from NYTimes.com

In his Tuesday press conference, President Obama commented that “Women are going to make up their own minds in this election about who is advancing the issues they care most deeply about.” However, many fundraising efforts have been focused on women’s health and birth control as key issues women will consider while voting. The Guardian characterized this presidential election as “becoming a referendum on women’s bodies” and the republican legislative agenda as a “regress[ion] to a pre-modern state.” In a New York Times feature, centrist Republican women said they may consider voting for Barack Obama in November due to the GOP’s push for limits on contraception coverage and access.

International Women’s Day

However, this week also marked International Women’s Day, and the Boston Herald was not alone in warning readers that American women are not the only group losing ground. The Wall Street Journal reported on the Afghanistan’s government support of laws that would require women to wear the veil and forbid them from mixing with men in the work place or traveling without a male chaperone, in an attempt to negotiate with the Taliban.  Additionally,  a prominent Afghani female activist’s office was attacked in what she called an assassination attempt.

Elsewhere, women in Egypt marked Thursday by marching to demand more equal gender representation in Parliament. Turkey’s Parliament marked International Women’s Day on Thursday by approving a package of laws aimed at better protecting women and children from abuse.

Read more coverage of International Women’s Day:

What do you think about the phrase “war on women?”

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

‘War on Women’ rages on this week

Filling the majority of the gender-related news hole this week, and throughout the month of February, was the ongoing Republican action on the issues of abortion and women’s health that have been called a “War on Women.”

On the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives voted at the end of last week as part of a spending bill to eliminate funding to Title X programs, which help low-income families with family planning and contraception, and block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding. Roughly a third of Planned Parenthood’s budget comes from federal, state and local governments, according to a New York Times article.

Though the focus of the debate is around its abortion services, the organization doesn’t currently receive federal funds for abortions. The organization’s website highlights that only about three percent of all its health services are abortion related. Planned Parenthood provides family planning, cancer screenings, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and other services for both men and women but particularly for low-income women.

The House vote was emotional, being preceded by Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier sharing her personal experience with abortion on the floor.

In response to the decision, a campaign to stand with Planned Parenthood was launched, along with a petition and other letter writing campaignsto legislators. A “Rally for Women’s Health” is planned for today, Feb. 26, in New York. A number of public figures have spoken out on the issue this week from Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show” to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Some of the other budget actions that would affect women include cuts to international family planning (including barring funds from going to the United Nations Population Fund), Head Start and Women Infant Children (WIC) program, which provides food and nutrition assistance for low-income women with children under age 5.

Several state legislatures were in the news for reproductive health and abortion issues in the past week. Here are some of the highlights:

  • A proposed Georgia law could give the death penalty for miscarriages (as described by Mother Jones)
  • Virginia’s General Assembly voted Thursday that abortion clinics should be regulated as hospitals in a move that may put the majority of the clinics out of business.
  • Iowa bills that would allow for “justifiable homicide” in defense of an unborn child, similar to legislation introduced and shelved in South Dakota earlier this month and proposed in Nebraska, have stirred concerns that they could be used to condone the killing of abortion doctors.

Also making headlines was a controversial anti-abortion billboard erected in New York City this week (and subsequently taken down) that angered some residents. The board showed a young black girl with the words “the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb.”

Also in the news: Movie time

With the Academy Awards slated for Sunday, in discussion is the representation of women in the film industry, including looks at the “most powerful women” at this year’s Oscars.

Following last year’s history-making awards season in which a woman (Kathryn Bigelow) won the coveted best director award for the first time, no women are up for the prize in 2011. Additionally, no women are up for awards in cinematography. For writing, only nominees for “Winter’s Bone” for adapted screenplay and “The Kids Are All Right” for original screenplay have female authors listed.

A study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University in 2010 found that women made up only “7 percent of directors, 10 percent of writers, 15 percent of executive producers, 24 percent of producers, 18 percent of editors and 2 percent of cinematographers,” according to a post by Martha Lauzen for the Women’s Media Center.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.