And then there were three. With Rick Santorum bowing out of the presidential race to salvage any chance he has at running again in 2016, three Republican candidates remain in the race. So where do they stand on the “hot topics” we all love to debate? Here’s your Mom Vote 2012 primer:
This year, as never before, the right of women’s to access birth control through their health insurance plans provided through employers, especially those with a religious affiliation, has been hot topic number one. The three remaining GOP presidential candidates all have pretty much the same position – if women want birth control they should have to pay for it themselves rather than have insurance cover it, viewing it not as a health-related issue (even though well over 90% of American women rely on birth control at some point in their lives), but more like Rush Limbaugh has, as a question of sexual activity:
Mitt Romney – Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney used to believe that employer provided health care plans should cover birth control for women, even if the employer had a religious affiliation. Presidential candidate Romney has changed his stance. Romney recently told one voter at a campaign stop, “If you’re looking for free stuff, vote for [Obama].”
Newt Gingrich – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has been vague on whether health insurance plans should be required to cover prescription birth control. He supported efforts to let employers with a religious affiliation opt out of such coverage. While in Congress, Gingrich consistently opposed federal funding for family planning.
Ron Paul – The U.S. Congressman from Texas Ron Paul, an OB/GYN by training, says the current debate on birth control is “silly.” But in his true libertarian style, he agrees that religiously affiliated employers’ shouldn’t be forced to pay for birth control through insurance plans. He’s introduced legislation that would allow states to ban the sale of contraception. Interestingly, he recently admitted that as a physician he did prescribe birth control to his patients.
When it comes to birth control coverage as it relates to men, none of the candidates has addressed whether insurers should be able to opt out of covering the costs of vasectomies.
All the GOP candidates consider themselves to be “pro-life” and oppose abortion, though there are variations in their positions:
Romney – As recently as his 1994 campaign for Senate against the late Ted Kennedy, he considered himself to be pro-choice, stating that it was a woman’s right to choose whether she had an abortion. Today, Romney contends he is staunchly pro-life, but supports a woman’s right to have an abortion in the case of rape, incest or if the mother’s life is at risk. He refused to sign the pledge from the group Personhood USA that life begins at conception.
Gingrich – Gingrich considers himself to be pro-life but believes in a woman’s right to an abortion in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. As Speaker of the House in 1995, he Gingrich supported federal funding for abortions in case of rape, incest or where the life of the mother was in danger. However, he has flip-flopped on whether he believes life begins at conception or implantation. Has He has signed the pledge from the group Personhood USA that he will fight to pass laws that say life begins at conception.
Paul – Believes life begins at conception, but supports the availability of the “morning after” pill on a state level for rape victims. Paul has been criticized for his remarks that a woman who was the victim of an “honest” rape should be provided with the morning after pill. Paul has also signed the pledge from the group Personhood USA that he will fight to pass laws that say life begins at conception.
All remaining GOP candidates oppose gay marriage and agree that marriage should be reserved for relationships between a man and a woman. If the remaining Republican candidates are interested in garnering support and money from businesses, they might have to soften their positions on gay marriage rights. Corporations are increasingly coming to conclusion that if they want to successfully recruit and retain qualified employees, they must be more open to creating workplaces that are welcoming to the LGBT community.
Romney – Supports domestic partnership benefits for gay couples, but doesn’t support civil unions or gay marriage. Romney supports the federal Defense of Marriage Act (D.O.M.A.), which bars federal recognition of gay marriage.
Gingrich – Says marriage is a “sacrament” between a man and a woman. He’s been married three times. Helped sponsor D.O.M.A. He has acknowledged he was married to his second wife while having an affair with his current wife, Callista.
Paul –Favors D.O.M.A. on states’ rights grounds. While Paul currently opposes gay marriage, he said in a 2007 interview that he supported the right of gay couples to marry as long as they didn’t impose their relationship on anyone else.
The remaining Republican candidates all believe the Second Amendment to the Constitution provides for citizens’ right to own to guns:
Romney – Signed the nation’s first ban on assault weapons as Massachusetts Governor in 1994, but in 1995 proclaimed “The Right to Bear Arms” day in that state. Romney told “Meet the Press” during the 2008 presidential campaign that he supports background checks before the purchase of a gun. He was an early supporter of the Brady Act (requiring federal background checks), but now says he is opposed to enacting any additional gun control laws nationwide. Joined the National Rifle Association (N.R.A.) during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Gingrich – Told the N.R.A conference in 2011 that the right to bear arms isn’t about hunting or target shooting, saying “The right to bear arms is a political right designed to safeguard freedom so that no government can take away from you the rights which God has given you.” Gingrich has received consistently high ratings from the N.R.A. for his position on gun laws. Gingrich has spoken in support of the Gun Free School Zone law, for which he has drawn criticism from the Gun Owners of America.
Paul – Introduced legislation to repeal the 1996 Gun Free School Zones Act. Paul’s campaign site says, “As a congressman, Ron Paul has never once voted for any piece of legislation that would infringe on gun owners’ rights or weaken the Second Amendment.” He has introduced legislation that would repeal the Brady Act and the federal assault weapons ban bill. Ultimately, Paul would abolish the Gun Free School Zones law and supports the right of teachers to carry guns on school grounds.
Affordable Care Act
Generally, the Republican field wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.), or as they like to call it ‘”Obamacare.”
Romney – This is a tricky issue for Romney. As Governor of Massachusetts, he stood by a similar universal health care law, which has come to be known as “Romneycare.” He has tried to distinguish the Massachusetts mandate with the federal law that was passed under President Obama but claiming that it is too big and unwieldy, and will be a burden to implement nationally. Romney contends that the federal government should stay out of health insurance legislation, while at the same time saying he’d leave it to the states to pass whatever health care bills they want.
Gingrich – He proposed what he calls his “Patient Power” plan, an amalgam of tax credits and tax deductions that would supposedly make health insurance more affordable. His plan also calls for changes in Medicaid and Medicare, as well as making insurance portable across state lines, rather than connected to Americans’ employment. However, as recently as 2008, Gingrich favored the idea of an individual mandate, asserting that it was “immoral” for those who could afford it not to buy insurance.
Paul – His plan is similar to that of Gingrich. Paul calls for a repeal of the A.C.A, and promotes a combination of tax cuts and deductions to encourage Americans to purchase their own insurance. Paul believes that no one has a right to medical care and so shouldn’t be forced to purchase it through a government regulation.
The idea of following up on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act with the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act has not been on the minds or lips of the Republican candidates. The Ledbetter law only gives employees expanded rights to sue for back pay if they discover they’ve been discriminated against, while the Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the current Equal Pay Act, making it more difficult for employers to discriminate on the basis of gender from the outset of a person’s employment. On a recent conference call, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told me that there is little chance that Paycheck Fairness legislation will come up for a vote anytime this year given the Republican majority in Congress. But that got me wondering – where do the Republican presidential candidates stand on the issue of equal pay for equal work?
Romney – Not on the record commenting one way or the other, but as Governor of Massachusetts Romney favored a law that would require public corporations to disclose in federal securities filings the numbers of women and minorities hired. On a recent conference call with reporters, Romney’s staff didn’t have an answer to the question of whether he supports the Ledbetter Act, and said they’d have to get back to the reporters with an answer.
Gingrich – He doesn’t think there’s any such thing as a gender wage gap and says that equal pay for men in about 15 years is what we should really be worrying about.
Paul – As the lone member of Congress in this group, Paul voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act.
What issue are you still wondering about in terms of where the candidates stand? What issues would you like them to be talking about?