Obama vs. McCain – Women's issues

By Vidya Pradhan

Senator McCain’s pick of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday did exactly what it was supposed to do – take the attention away from the high of the Democratic convention and create a media buzz that still has the wires humming on Sunday.

Frank Rich opines in today’s New York Times, “The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman.”

Only time will show if that belief holds water, but there is no doubt that Senator Clinton’s candidacy empowered millions of women voters and made their voices heard. Women, who have always been more reliable voters (they make up 54 percent of the population, 55 percent of registered voters and 60 percent of the electorate), are only now waking up to the power they have as a voting bloc.

Will they exercise their power to put one of their gender in the White House next year? Or will they take a closer look at each of the candidates’ voting records and position on women’s issues? We lay them out –

Barack Obama

Positions ( highlights)

Fixing the nation’s health care system -More than 19 million women are uninsured in this country, and women are more likely than men to delay or not get medical care because of high costs. Barack Obama is committed to ensuring that all Americans have health care coverage by the end of his first term in office.

Supporting research into women’s health – Barack Obama has fought to maintain funding for the Centers of Excellence in Women's Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. He also supports legislation to encourage research that will examine gender and health disparities.

Supports a woman’s right to choose – He has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case.

Pay equity – Barack Obama believes the government needs to take steps to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace.

Expanding paid medical leave -Barack Obama supports efforts to guarantee workers seven days of paid sick leave per year, a moderate proposal that should not impose too onerous a burden on employers.

Investing in women-owned businesses -Barack Obama encourages investing in women-owned businesses, providing more support to women business owners and reducing discrimination in lending.

Voting record

– Obama passed a law to create the Victim Economic Security and Safety Act(VESSA), which would help victims of abuse seek treatment without losing their job. 

– Barack Obama is an original co-sponsor of Johanna's Law. Signed into law in January 2007, the law will educate women and increase awareness of ovarian cancer.

– Barack Obama is an original co-sponsor of legislation to expand access to contraception, health information and preventive services to help reduce unintended pregnancies. Introduced in January 2007, the Prevention First Act will increase funding for family planning and comprehensive sex education that teaches both abstinence and safe sex methods.

– In 2007, Obama sponsored an amendment, which became law, to the America Competes Act requiring that minorities and females be represented and consulted during the development of innovation/competitiveness strategies at the National Science and Technology Summit (NSTS), on the President's Council on Innovation and Competitiveness, and elsewhere.

– Barack Obama introduced legislation to combat domestic violence by providing $25 million a year for partnerships between domestic violence prevention organizations and Fatherhood or Marriage programs to train staff in domestic violence services, provide services to families affected by domestic violence, and to develop best practices in domestic violence prevention.

– Barack Obama introduced legislation to increase child support enforcement by an additional $4.9 billion over 10 years, a measure that will collect nearly $20 billion in payments from men who don't fulfill their parental responsibilities.

– Rated 100% by NARAL on pro-choice votes in 2005, 2006, 2007.

“Present” vote on many abortion measures in the Illinois Senate was a strategy developed in consultation with Planned Parenthood and supported by pro-choice advocacy groups. 

“NO” vote on the “Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act” or BAIPA was because BAIPA was backdoor anti-abortion legislation drafted by the hard-right.

John McCain


Supports overturning Roe vs. Wade – believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

Promotes adoption – has cosponsored legislation to prohibit discrimination against families with adopted children, to provide adoption education, and to permit tax deductions for qualified adoption expenses, as well as to remove barriers to interracial and inter-ethnic adoptions.

Voting record

-Opposed equal pay for equal work – McCain skipped a vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that would ensure women have the opportunity to recover back pay for discrimination once they discover it. If he had been there to vote, he said he would have voted against it and that women “need education and training” rather than an equal pay bill.

-Opposed spending $100 million to prevent unintended and teen pregnancies -In 2005, McCain voted NO to allocate $100 million to expand access to preventive health care services that reduce the numbers of unintended and teen pregnancies and reduce the number of abortions.

-Opposed Title X, the federal family planning program– In 1990, McCain voted NO on legislation to extend the Title X federal family planning program, which provides low-income and uninsured women and families with health care services rangin
g from breast and cervical cancer screening to birth control.

-Opposed legislation requiring that abstinence-only programs be medically accurate and scientifically based – McCain voted NO on legislation that would help reduce the number of teen pregnancies by providing funding for programs to teach comprehensive, medically accurate sexuality education and other programs to prevent unintended teen pregnancies.(2005)

-Voted against restoring Medicaid funding that could be used for family planning for low-income women (3/17/05).
-Voted against requiring health care plans to cover birth control (3/22/03).

-Rated 0% by NARAL, indocating an anti-choice voting record.

Here’s a video that encapsulates Senator McCain’s positions. It’s meant to be funny, but I found it grim. After all, just a few thousand votes could make that video a documentary.

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