Obama appeared in New York City today with Hillary Clinton, where he gave a great speech on the economic struggles of working women and the challenges of work-family balance. He made important points about the rights to fair pay, family medical leave, sick days, and maternity leave. And though I criticized him yesterday for avoiding talking about reproductive rights, today he did broach the subject:
And let’s be clear, the Supreme Court’s ruling on equal pay is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s at stake in this election. Usually, when we talk about the Court, it’s in the context of reproductive rights and Roe v. Wade. And make no mistake about it, that’s a critical issue in this election. Senator McCain has made it abundantly clear that he wants to appoint justices like Roberts and Alito -- and that he hopes to see Roe overturned. Well, I stand by my votes against confirming Justices Roberts and Alito. And I’ve made it equally clear that I will never back down in defending a woman’s right to choose.
But the Supreme Court also affects women’s lives in so many other ways – from decisions on equal pay, to workplace discrimination, to Title IX, to domestic violence, to civil rights and workers’ rights. And the question we face in this election is whether we’ll have judges who demonstrate sound judgment and empathy, who understand how law operates in our daily lives, who are committed to upholding the values at the core of our Constitution – or judges who put ideology before justice, with our fundamental rights as the first casualty.
Yesterday Kevin Drum wrote that he "didn't get" why I was concerned about Obama's sometimes reluctance to talk about abortion, and suggested I was overplaying the candidate's comments to a Christian magazine last week, in which he said "mental distress" was not an acceptable reason for a woman to choose abortion. What I see, though, is a politician with as good of a chance as any in our lifetime to actually pass universal health care, and the opportunity, through that process, to address reproductive rights.
I'm an upper middle class woman with employer-provided health care in a major East Coast city. I can access abortion. But we have a Hyde Amendment in this country that severely restricts poor women's access to abortion, even if they need one to protect their own health. We have pharmacists across the nation refusing to give women birth control, and 87 percent of all U.S. counties without an abortion provider. Poor, rural women are affected most by these issues -- and for women, reproductive health care is primary health care. I'd like to believe that an overhaul of our health care system would address these inequities. And I'd like to believe that Obama will be the president to fight those battles.