Courting WomenOct 31, 2012
Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch ran my opinion piece concerning the all-important “woman vote” in this year’s election. Here it is in its entirety: I come from a line of strong women. Unlike many of their generation, both my grandmothers earned college degrees. Both studied political science, followed politics nearly all their lives and had lives rich with experience. Each had the challenge of raising teenagers in the 1960s and the joy of watching the Iron Curtain fall. With one deceased and the other suffering the signs of aging, I'm glad they aren't following this election closely. Both would be angered over how some politicians and political parties are courting female voters.
While they carried differing views on abortion, neither thought "reproductive choices" defined a woman. They voted based on foreign policy, economics and character. They taught me to vote on a wide array of issues. In the struggles of their generation to see gender equality, I know they would find it offensive to have an elected official give them a patronizing pat on the head and say, "Don't you worry your pretty little head about national security or unemployment, just focus on abortion."
When I look at commercials released from President Obama and Tim Kaine, I routinely find myself asking, are there millions more votes coming from 18-year-old girls than I am aware? Because the "all sex, birth control and abortion all the time" message just doesn't play with serious women with any life experience. Women who have experienced reality beyond their teenage years and college know nothing comes free, not even promises of birth control.
Unlike Sandra Fluke, we've discovered we can handle $11 per month for birth control easier than losing more of our paychecks to cover the spiraling cost of Obamacare. Moreover we've researched costs under Obamacare and know that in the business we own, we'd be "fiscally smarter" to actually drop the great health care we now offer our employees and just pay the fine. But no matter what happens, we won't, because we care. That much.
In fact, the true profile of the female voter who will decide this election has already discovered simple facts, such as when they became pregnant and chose life or abortion, in both cases a routine ultrasound was done for the safety of the child, themselves or both.
Unlike in the era of my grandmothers, many women are lawyers and know that the right to birth control was upheld by the Supreme Court's 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision. We are smart enough to know the real fight is whether government should force anyone, particularly faith-based organizations or businesses like Catholic hospitals, to pay for contraception, abortion-inducing drugs or sterilizations of others. We know the real issue, no matter how many ridiculous campaign commercials try to fool us.
The female doctors in this critical voting bloc, of which there are many, know that blood stains on patient tables and fetal parts covering the bottom of a freezer are unacceptable discoveries from the inspections of abortion centers done by Virginia Health Department officials. They know from the medical practices they own that patient safety and cleanliness is a cost of doing business, but a worthwhile cost because they care more about their patients than their bottom line.
The voter who is going to decide this election checks her facts. No matter how many times the president says Planned Parenthood does mammograms, she researches or calls any abortion center and finds out that in fact they don't do mammograms — and moreover cannot legally do them because they are not licensed to do so.
We're smarter than the campaigns think we are.
No doubt it's exciting to see the future of our country ultimately come down to the decision of women. Wouldn't those who fought for women's suffrage be elated? But they'd be more thrilled to know that women are going to pick the president based on a broad array of issues, including which elected official will create the best environment for their businesses, because unlike stereotyped days of the past, women now own those businesses. They care about their children, born and yet to be born, but they also care about their employees. They don't just serve the food on their family's table; they often bring home the paychecks that provide that food. They no longer just send their sons to war; they also go and send their daughters.
Real equality for women, the kind my grandmothers believed in, comes only when candidates rightly assume brainpower and buying power when courting the female vote. A smart woman won't vote for any candidate or political party that reduces her to body but no brain.