I’ll come right out and say it: I cast my vote—by absentee ballot—for President Barack Obama. I voted as a pro-choice woman, an environmentalist, a member of the middle class, and as a mother very worried about the world her daughter will inherit. I voted as a daughter whose elderly parents are recipients of Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran’s Administration benefits.
I don’t love abortions or hate wealthy people, and I have never, in my life, hugged a tree. But as a human being concerned with very basic issues of fairness and opportunity for all, there was no ambiguity in my decision.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s look, for perhaps one last time, at what is at stake for women and in particular, Latinas on November 6. Because, after the polls close tomorrow, we’re going to see the country go in one of two very different directions, under one of two very different leaders.
Despite (or, in spite of) lobbying by President Obama, Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act, which would grant legal residency to millions of children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants. Mitt Romney has pledged to veto the DREAM Act if it passes during his presidency.
Obama’s deferred action program is enabling hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, who came to the U.S. illegally as children and have graduated from high school or joined the military here, to obtain work visas and remain legally in the country. Mitt Romney has said he would not continue the program.
Although Obama has disappointed many for his failure to enact the comprehensive immigration reform he promised during his first term, it is expected that he’ll be more aggressive on the issue in his second term. Romney has advocated for “self-deportation”—a term that is as ridiculous as it is unrealistic. He opposes in-state tuition benefits and drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants, and his website, MittRomney.com, features a lot of tough talk about a border fence and more “officers on the ground” at the U.S.-Mexico border, and very little about actual immigration reform.
A key advisor on Romney’s position on immigration is Kris Kobach, the Kansas attorney who authored Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 and a similarly harsh immigration law in Alabama. Romney has said that he would ask the Justice Department to drop its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Arizona law, and has indicated that the law is a model for other states.
Approximately 39% of Latino undergraduate students are Pell Grant recipients, and the program doubled its breadth under Obama. The current administration has also increased government funding for community colleges, which offer an affordable path to a degree for students who can’t afford a 4-year college. Obama also succeeded in blocking a huge interest rate hike for student loans, and set a cap on the amount that graduates have to pay back each month. Romney has vowed to roll back these initiatives. Of course, this is the same guy who told students to “borrow money from your parents” to pay for college or start a business, and that students should get “as much education as they can afford.”
Romney has argued for increased private sector involvement in public K-12 education, a view that many teachers (and teachers’ unions) feel would deprive public schools of much-needed resources. He’s also said that class size has no bearing on student achievement.
Obama has been a steadfast defender of a woman’s right to choose, even as individual states enact onerous roadblocks to accessing safe, legal abortion. Romney, who was pro-choice when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 (he and his wife even made a $150 donation at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser that both attended), now opposes abortion and supports overturning Roe vs. Wade. He has indicated he would leave it up to states to decide their own abortion laws and said he would “get rid of” federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He has also endorsed candidates who oppose abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and his running mate, Paul Ryan, has referred to rape as simply “another method of conception.”
Read Related: No Wonder Mitt Romney is Losing the Latina Vote!
In early 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services, at the direction of President Obama, introduced a regulation mandating that employers who offer health insurance coverage to their employees include coverage for contraception. Opponents howled, ostensibly on the basis of religious objection to contraception. The Obama Administration offered a clause that required insurance companies to provide contraception coverage if an employer opposed doing so. Romney opposes the regulation, even with the “conscience clause” for religious organizations. Yet the same rule and clause exists within Massachusetts’ healthcare program, which he shepherded and enacted while governor of the state.
HEALTHCARE AND HEALTHCARE EQUITY
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), dubbed “Obamacare” by supporters and detractors alike, has provided insurance coverage for millions of previously uninsured Americans, and increased coverage and screening benefits for millions more. It also prevents an insurance company from rejecting new applicants because of preexisting conditions. Romney has vowed to repeal Obamacare on “day one,” despite the fact that the President’s plan does not differ significantly from Romney’s own plan enacted while he was governor of Massachusetts. The ACA also prohibits insurance companies from charging women more for the same services provided to men.
Additionally, Obama has sought to streamline and expand Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran’s Administration programs for the elderly, low-income, and veterans of the Armed Services. Romney’s plan calls for privatization of Medicare and VA benefits, by implementing voucher programs that would cut coverage, raise costs to enrollees and benefit private insurers. His plan for Medicaid would strip healthcare coverage from millions of poor children and families.
Amazingly, Congress has failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would guarantee that men and women get paid the same amount for the same work. (I mean, isn’t this a no-brainer? Women now earn about .75¢ for every $1 men earn.) Obama has urged passage of the act and promised to sign it; Romney has refused to state his position on the issue.
I admit my biases. I am a social issue voter. I like to think that’s the result of my ideology, experiences and upbringing, and not just because I’m not rich. And regardless of one’s political views, we all have to agree that a great pillar of U.S. democracy is the right to cast our votes freely, privately, and for whomever we want. I just hope that we women realize how much is at stake, for ourselves and our loved ones.