Quest for Women’s 2012 Push-Back Vote Begins

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(WOMENSENEWS)–More than 50 women’s rights organizations will be using March 1, the first day of women’s history month, to announce a voter-major mobilization effort for the 2012 elections.

The coalition is called HERVotes, with the HER standing for Health and Economic Rights. Goals include standing up for Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, livable wages and families’ economic security.

HERVotes throws its collective weight into the elections in a week jangling with news spurs; from GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s expressed enthusiasm for mandated drug coverage of welfare recipients–more than 90 percent of whom are women–to a controversial Senate bill allowing employers to opt out of the health reform mandate to provide insurance coverage of birth control.

HERVotes has a Web site, but no central office or designated leader. Members include the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington,Va.; the National Council of Negro Women in Washington and, an online group with contact phone numbers in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this week, HERVotes organizers said they are "determined to ensure that women have access to quality health care; to protect the gains women have made in education, the workplace, health care and basic individual rights and to continue moving forward an equality agenda."

A related voter drive can safely be assumed to benefit Democrats, who are more likely to oppose such things as mandatory pre-abortion sonograms (just passed in a watered-down version in Virginia and coming up in Idaho and Pennsylvania) and more likely to favor birth control coverage in health reform, which is being taken up by the U.S. Senate this week.

A Boost for Obama

If HERVotes does manage to boost the women’s vote in November, President Barack Obama is poised to benefit.

An Associated Press-GfK poll finds the president’s approval ratings on the economy and unemployment up by 10 percentage points since December. Women are giving Obama more credit than men are for the country’s economic improvement, the Associated Press reported Feb. 28.

A Feb. 28 survey by Poll Position, a survey group based in Atlanta, meanwhile, finds a sizable gender gap on the front-burner issue of government-mandated health insurance coverage of birth control.

Men oppose the mandate (51 percent to 37 percent) while women support it (46 percent to 42 percent.)Democrats back the mandate (70 percent to 19 percent); Republicans opposed it (70 percent to 19 percent) and Independents oppose it (47 percent to 39 percent.) Poll Position finds Americans age 44 and younger favoring the mandate, older Americans opposing.

Overall nationwide, Poll Position finds 46 percent opposing the mandate, 42 percent supporting it.

In election-year politics the key issue is who turns out to vote.

HERVotes cites data from the Center for American Women in Politics, based in New Brunswick, N.J., showing a strong voter turnout advantage among women in 2008, with 60.4 percent of women voting compared with 55.7 percent of men. The gender gap, according to the research group, held true across all ages and races.

Virginia Pulls Back a Bit

At the level of state politics, some staunchly anti-choice politicians appear to be growing shy of the reproductive-rights spotlight. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is this week’s prime example.

The Virginia Senate voted Tuesday for a scaled-back version of a controversial proposal that would require women to undergo external ultrasounds before abortions, but not the transvaginal ones, The Washington Post reported Feb. 28.

The 21-19 vote in the Republican-controlled Senate — mostly along party lines — followed protests on Capitol Square and mocking on national television. McDonnell responded by asking legislators to soften the bill. Earlier, the state senate finance committee killed a bill that would have prevented poor women whose fetuses have gross mental and physical abnormalities from using state funds for abortions.

Women hold 90, or 16.8 percent, of the 535 seats in the 112th US Congress — 17, or 17 percent, of the 100 seats in the Senate and 73, or 16.8 percent, of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives.

A group of political women in Virginia formed a political action committee to recruit and support candidates to defeat elected officials who back the ultrasound and so-called personhood bills, The Washington Post reported Feb. 27. Women’s Strike Force, which boasts several former elected officials, formed after Virginia’s attempt to require women to undergo mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds before an abortion.

Anti-Abortion Fight Not Over

The controversy and push-back in Virginia, however, isn’t discouraging anti-abortion legislators in Idaho and Pennsylvania, where the ultrasound issue is just coming up.

Nor does there appear to be any let-up on the attacks on women living at the edges of survival.

The conservative push for mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients in the program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, has produced measures in nearly two dozen states, The New York Times reported Feb. 26, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures. Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has called it an "excellent idea."

Researchers at the anti-poverty group CLASP–the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C.–have found that drug-testing programs cost more to administer than they save by excluding participants, so it’s not cost-effective.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch, senior policy analyst at CLASP, told Women’s eNews in a phone interview a year ago that the law that instituted TANF does not say that recipients can’t use illegal drugs. If states are going to test welfare recipients for "reasonable suspicion," it needs to be written out what that entails so as not to discriminate, she said. "Just because they are poor we can’t suspect they are doing drugs."

The Department of Health and Human Services has found that–contrary to some stereotyping–use of illicit drugs is not much higher in families receiving public assistance. In one study they found a 9.6 percent rate of drug usage in the preceding month, compared with a 6.8 percent rate among families who receive no assistance. The administration also found that heavy alcohol use was slightly lower in households receiving assistance than in those that do not.

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5 thoughts on “Quest for Women’s 2012 Push-Back Vote Begins

  1. There is a grassroots national protest movement against the War on Women, established on Facebook on 2/19. Over 16,000 women and men have signed up so far in only 12 days. The purpose is to provide a forum to exchange information and ideas and to join together at a national and local/state level to protest and act against legislation designed to take away women’s rights. In addition to a national page, there are 50 pages established where people from each state can join to plan protests against state legislation in statehouses NOW that might get enacted without swift action. If you believe in the 2012 Push-Back vote, you should also monitor activity in this group, to stop STATE action NOW.

    On Facebook, it is called “Organizing against the War on Women”.

  2. The pushback by women against conservative attacks on basic rights is one of the most tangible things in politics today. Although they have always been used as a political pandering tool, women’s health issues have not been placed at the forefront of an election to the degree that they are now for quite some time. From backlash against the Susan G. Komen foundation to the wave of anger directed towards anti-abortion bills requiring transvaginal ultrasounds, both women and men are making their disapproval heard on a large scale. This will no doubt prove advantageous to Democratic candidates in the 2012 election – Republicans cast themselves as more out of touch with mainstream public opinion with every passing day. Their timing could really not be better, especially as the country prepares to vote in November. There is a record number of progressive women candidates running for federal office in 2012, and women are beginning to see that the first step to take in protecting their basic rights is electing women who agree with them and share their experiences. The all-male panel present in Representative Issa’s hearing about birth control drove this point home – women need to be represented in Congress as women, not just as Democrats or as Republicans.

  3. The Republicans are in serious danger of alienating an important voting bloc if they continue attacking women on previously resolved issues like access to contraception and equal pay for women. It is a cliche of politics that unmarried women make or break the election for democratic candidates, and this year is no exception. Last month Eric Klinenberg of The Daily Beast wrote an excellent article highlighting the efforts of democratic bigwigs to invigorate and encourage these women, noting that single women “are the largest group of nonvoters,” but they are also typically the most in line with the democratic party platform. Considering this, the recent Republican attacks on women appear to be the perfect opportunity to cement a Republican presidential loss in 2012 and begin a serious campaign for Democrats to regain control over both houses of Congress.

    Yet this will only be possible with funding, co-ordination, and a firm strategy backed by all the major players in the Democratic Party. This article indicates that these efforts to mobilize women are at best ill-organized, at worst, half-hearted. The article notes that “HERVotes has a Web site, but no central office or designated leader.” The Democratic party should have learned this lesson by now – you cannot have an effective organization without effective organization. The incredible success of the Democrats in 2008 is due largely to the fact that there was both a central office and a designated leader – the Obama campaign. Looking more recently, the Occupy movement tapped into the energy from the democratic base which is still very much alive, but it was unable to sustain the excitement or translate it into any tangible benefits because of the lack of a central office and a designated leader.

    It is great that there is some energy surrounding women’s issues domestically, but currently the movement is relying upon Republican miscalculations – like the Virginia abortion bill, Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic statements about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, and the backwards positions of many Republicans regarding women in the military – rather than any tangible excitement orchestrated by Democrats. If women’s groups are serious about using these issues to the advantage of Democrats, they will end the infighting and come up with a unified message and a single leader to direct the movement.

  4. I agree that the HERVotes mobilization of women voters will in all likelihood benefit President Obama. Historically, women are more likely to identify themselves as Democrats than men. The 2008 election paid serious attention to the mobilization of the female vote, especially when Hillary Clinton stepped out of the running. I predict the 2012 elections will once again focus on mobilizing the female vote in an effort to expand the gender gap in favor the Democratic nominee.

    Recent controversy, including the Sandra Fluke/ men-only contraception panel, and Republican candidate and candidate supporter contraception and frontline gaffes, have and will continue to benefit President Obama. As mentioned in this article, “women are giving Obama more credit than men are for the country’s economic improvement.” The inability for the Republican party to get in front of and appropriately control their message has alienated many independent and socially moderate women. HERVote can be taken as example of how women are beginning to once again recognize the importance of their mobilization in the midst of a sour political climate.

    Continued overt and not-so-overt sexism and the use of policy proposals that disregard a woman’s right to make her own bodily decisions, in conjunction with a drop in unemployment rates and the further improvement of the economy, will pave the way to President Obama’s second term.

  5. This program, HERvotes, seems to be especially necessary in the current political climate. Women’s issues (particularly health issues) have come to take the spot light on the Hill. These topics draw attention to the anatomical differences between men and women that can never be reconciled or considered “equal.”
    As a woman, I find it hard to listen to men accuse me of being a “slut” for taking birth control, seeing as my birth control regulates my ovarian cysts that cause so much pain I need to be hospitalized. Until you have dealt with the whole host of health issues (recurrent UTIs, ovulation, cysts, yeast infections, period cramps, and the kicker– child birth) that are unique to my gender, you CANNOT tell me that the efforts I am making to manage those symptoms shouldn’t be covered by my insurance!

    Although I am pro-choice, I think we can all agree that we’d prefer fewer women aborting babies. Abortions are unfortunate, invasive, and emotionally devastating to women. But if we want to avoid creating a life that needs to be aborted, we should be provided with ever measure to prevent such circumstances.

    I think organizations like HERvotes could help educate women on how important and relevant to their lives these discussions are! Some women who want these right don’t feel threatened by what is going on in congress but they should. With Rush Limbaugh making offensive comments to a panel of all men deciding my fate, I feel that women now, more than ever in my lifetime, need to stand up for their own medical well being before it is trampled on by men who have no idea what we go through.

    As a side note– I found the last segment of the article to be fascinating that drug usage among impoverished families to be similar to that of families receiving no government assistance, and alcohol rates being HIGHER in independent families! I would never have guessed those numbers.