During the second presidential debate, former Gov. Mitt Romney remarked that he sought qualified females for his cabinet positions as governor by searching through “binders full of women.” Romney’s comment was clumsily articulated and instantaneously spurred memes all over the Internet.
The humor of his remarks, however, should not overshadow the fact that Romney’s record on women’s issues is atrocious.
The issue that the initial question actually raised, which Romney failed to address, was pay equity. Luckily, Romney’s senior adviser Ed Gillespie clarified the candidate’s position on equal pay following the debate.
When discussing Romney’s views on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the equal pay act passed by President Barack Obama in his first term, Gillespie said, “The governor would not repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Act,” and “He was opposed to it at the time. He would not repeal it.”
The Romney campaign redacted Gillespie’s statements the next day. That Romney cannot take a firm stance on the issue of pay equity this far into his campaign is absurd.
Romney’s issues with women don’t end there. He supported the Blunt Amendment, a bill that would have allowed employers to deny women birth control through company health insurance on “moral” grounds.
While Health and Human Services defines birth control as basic preventive care for women, Romney started a petition against “the Obama administration’s attacks on religious liberty.”
If elected president, Romney has pledged to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The services offered by Planned Parenthood are invaluable to both men and women across the country. Planned Parenthood provides sex education, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, affordable contraception and cancer screening and prevention. Studies have shown that access to contraception and sex education lower rates of teen pregnancy and birth.
The former governor’s stance on abortion has proven to be ephemeral. As governor of Massachusetts, he was ardently pro-abortion rights. During his presidential campaign, however, he stated, “Do I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade? Yes.”
With three U.S. Supreme Court justices all but set for retirement in the coming term, appointments will likely be made. If Romney is elected, the court could conceivably overturn Roe v. Wade. As the general election nears, Romney has attempted to move toward the center by claiming he would not make new abortion legislation part of his agenda.
Romney’s continued ambivalence toward women’s issues is troubling. Sure, the format of primary elections requires candidates to take stronger stances early on and then gradually move towards the center. But with three weeks left until Election Day, Romney inexplicably continues to espouse arcane and sexist policies.
People who were offended by Romney’s binder comment during the debate were reasonably upset by the subtext that he had to make a concerted effort to recruit women for his cabinet. What they should be more upset about is that he endorses policies that should be obsolete by 50 years.
Romney’s binder gaffe was funny. The continued subjugation of women through discriminatory public policy is not. If you take away one thing from that debate, don’t let it be the mental image of Romney sifting through a binder full of women. Let it be that Romney’s policies fail women across the board and have no place in the 21st century.