American women earn on average 23 percent less than men – which adds up to an average loss of $383,000 in income over a working lifetime. Romney’s campaign couldn’t say recently whether their man would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act making it easier for women to file pay discrimination lawsuits (a law made necessary, by the way, because the conservative Roberts Supreme Court had eviscerated equal pay protection for women in its 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co ruling). All Romney himself could muster, eventually, was a grudging commitment to not repeal it. Democrats are pushing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which directly addresses the male-female pay disparity by putting teeth into the half-century old Equal Pay Act. Republicans oppose it and even deny the facts about wage inequality. Romney remains mum about his position on the bill.
It’s a safe bet that Romney won’t buck his party or its corporate sponsors for the sake of working women. He’ll undoubtedly say we should trust the “job creators” to fix whatever’s wrong.
Romney famously declared,”I like being able to fire people,” and certainly he got a lot of practice during his tenure at the private equity firm Bain Capital (where women made up only 10 percent of 95 vice-presidents when Romney was in charge). And a President Romney will be issuing plenty of pink slips to at least one large group of working women: public employees. He proposes to cut government jobs as part of his plan to reduce the deficit and rein in Washington, jobs disproportionately held by women. (Of the 601,000 government workers thrown out of work since June 2009 due to budget cuts, two out three were women.)
A Romney presidency would inflict particular pain on women already struggling on the economic edge. The GOP nominee has warmly embraced the “marvelous” Ryan budget which ends Medicare in any recognizable form and would throw between 14 million and 27 million people off of Medicaid, around two thirds of them women. And then, if Romney and a Republican Congress succeed in repealing “Obamacare” – assuming it survives next month’s ruling at the hands of the Roberts Court – 17 million women due to get health coverage under the law will remain uninsured.
President Obama proposed a budget this year that protects the social safety net and includes a number of women-friendly measures, such as increased funding for child care, early education, and enforcement of labor laws barring gender discrimination. Romney lauded a budget passed by the Republican House that cuts childcare and reduces food and health care assistance for roughly 20 million children as “responsible.”
All of which is to say: Under a President Romney, expect economic progress for women to grind to a halt. And what about women’s sexual freedom and reproductive rights? On those issues, be prepared for a warp-speed ride in reverse.
“Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes, I do,” Romney said during one debate, talking about the 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. He also has called the decision “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history.”
The next president will almost certainly have the power to determine whether Roe stands or falls. There is currently a 5-4 pro-Roe majority on the Supreme Court. Yet Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court’s most eloquent defender of women’s rights, including abortion rights, is 83 and in failing health, and likely to retire during the next presidency.
When asked what he will look for in a Supreme Court nominee, Romney name-checks the four anti-abortion conservatives on the Court: John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. And he has picked up endorsements from antiabortion PACs, such as the National Right to Life Committee, that impose an antiabortion litmus test on judicial nominees.
Take Romney at his word: If he wins, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, leaving it up to the states to decide whether abortion remains legal.
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