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Democrats Place Women's Issues at Forefront as Convention Opens

Democrats Place Women's Issues at Forefront as Convention Opens

September 5, 2012 — Women's issues were a prominent theme on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, with several speakers taking the opportunity to challenge Republicans about birth control, abortion rights, fair pay and other policies, National Journal reports.

As part of her speech, first lady Michelle Obama highlighted the Obama administration's policy accomplishments that benefit women, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and health care reform. The president "believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care," she said (Fournier, National Journal, 9/5).

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius touted passage of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), including provisions that expand women's access to contraception and other preventive services. "This president made it illegal to discriminate against women" by barring insurers from considering pregnancy and domestic abuse as pre-existing conditions, Sebelius said (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/4).

Several female House Democrats also addressed the convention on Tuesday, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Gwen Moore (Wis.) (Cox, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 9/4).

Maloney reminded the convention of House Republicans' refusal last February to add Georgetown University Law Center student Sandra Fluke to an all-male panel slated to testify about the federal contraceptive coverage rules. "I asked, 'Where are the women? Where are the women?' ... We're here! Now the women of America are here," she said. Fluke will speak at the convention on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Moore told convention delegates that Republicans opposed Democratic efforts to strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. She also alluded to failed efforts by House Republicans to "change the definition of rape" (Abcarian, Los Angeles Times, 9/4).

Comments on Abortion Rights

Several speakers specifically stressed the Democratic Party's support for abortion rights (Rutenberg, New York Times, 9/4). Democrats also sought to highlight Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's inconsistent position on the issue. They featured a video tribute to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) that included a clip of Romney expressing support for abortion rights during a debate with Kennedy.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that Democrats believe "women have the right to choose a safe, legal abortion with dignity and privacy," adding that they also support access to birth control, oppose mandatory ultrasound laws and "believe that rape is rape" (Smith, Politico, 9/4).

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Cecile Richards spoke at the DNC's women's caucus on Tuesday morning. She criticized opponents of the Obama administration's policies on abortion rights and contraception, saying, "They believe the solution to unemployment is hidden in our uterus" (Mundy, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 9/4).