Editorial from "The New York Times"
Mr. Romney’s Version of Equal Rights
Published: October 17, 2012
It has dawned on Mitt Romney that he has a problem with female voters. He just has no idea what to do about it, since it is the result of his positions on abortion, contraception, health services and many other issues. On Tuesday night, he bumbled his way through a cringe-inducing attempt to graft what he thinks should be 2012 talking points onto his 1952 sensibility.
In the midst of their rancorous encounter at Hofstra University, President Obama attacked Mr. Romney for vowing he would end federal support of Planned Parenthood and for criticizing the provision in the health care law that requires employers — except churches and religiously affiliated institutions — to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Clearly agitated, Mr. Romney said in response, “I’d just note that I don’t believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care or not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.”
Perhaps Mr. Romney forgot that he vetoed a bill as Massachusetts governor in 2005 that would have given women who were raped access to emergency contraception, or that he supported an amendment this year that would have allowed any business to opt out of the contraceptive mandate, or that he has said he would support a state constitutional amendment that would declare that life begins at conception — potentially making some kinds of contraceptives illegal.
Perhaps Mr. Romney was trying to say that the issue is who pays for contraceptives, not whether women can use them. But all those possibilities are just reminders of how hard it must be for him to remember where he stands at any given moment.
In any case, you cannot untangle access and money. Mr. Romney’s stated zeal to “defund” Planned Parenthood is either a rote ideological posture or a belief that it is right to end the federal support that gives many poor women access to mammograms, cervical cancer screening, family planning and other services. As Mr. Obama said: “That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country. And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.”
Having fumbled that one, Mr. Romney made things worse when he tried to talk about equal opportunity for women, which was made much harder by his opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He told a strange tale of his early days as governor of Massachusetts when he “had the chance to pull together a cabinet and all the applicants seemed to be men.” He said he went to his staff about it and was told that “these are the people that have the qualifications.”
So far, not so terribly bad.
But then he started a slow, painful slide into one of the most bizarre comments on this issue we’ve ever heard, which became an instant Internet sensation. “We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet,” Mr. Romney said, sounding as if that were a herculean task. An appeal to women’s groups, he said, “brought us whole binders full of women.”
This was important, he said, because “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the work force that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school.”
At this point we could practically hear his political consultants yelling “Stop!”
But Mr. Romney did not. “She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.”. But what if a woman had wanted to go home to study Spanish? Or rebuild an old car? Or spend time with her lesbian partner? Would Mr. Romney have been flexible about that? Or if a man wanted similar treatment?
True equality is not satisfied by allowing the little lady to go home early and tend to her children.