By Representative Carolyn Maloney
n light of Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) recent remarks that "legitimate rape" victims have "ways to try to shut that whole thing down," the results of a recent poll are truly puzzling. The USA Today/Suffolk University Poll found 90 million Americans who are eligible to vote might not do so, with 42 percent agreeing that: "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between the two parties. I must respectfully disagree.
From a woman's right to choose, to a woman's right to receive equal pay for equal work, the differences between the two presidential candidates are stark indeed. Consider the following.
On a woman's right to choose:
President Barack Obama believes that a woman's reproductive choices should be hers to make. He recognizes it as a very difficult decision but said: "I trust women to make these decisions."
Gov. Mitt Romney on the other hand, opposes a woman's right to choose, except in cases of rape and incest and believes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. He selected as his running mate a man who opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest and who co-sponsored a federal law that could in effect, criminalize popular forms of birth control.
On the issue of equal pay:
Obama understands that gender-based pay discrimination has a huge impact on women's lives. The first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, pointing out that: "Over the course of her career, she [Lilly] lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits."
Romney has repeatedly refused to say whether he would have signed the bill. His pick for vice president, Paul Ryan, voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
On the issue of family planning:
Obama has said that instead of defunding Planned Parenthood, we should make sure that women control their own health care choices, knowing that access to affordable contraception and the ability to space and time their children has a huge impact on the health of millions of women.
Romney has repeatedly said that he would defund Planned Parenthood. In 2010, Planned Parenthood provided 11 million medical services for nearly three million people. Thirty-eight percent of what Planned Parenthood does is testing and treatment of STDs, 33.5 percent is contraceptive services and 14.5 percent is cancer screening. And Romney wants to defund it.
On re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act
Obama strongly supports the passage of the Senate bill that reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act, a landmark piece of legislation originally authored by Vice President Joe Biden.
Romney was asked in 2008 about the VAWA and he said, "I'm not familiar with the act." This year, he won't go on the record in support of the Senate version of the VAWA with its expansion of coverage to more victims of violence.
On the issue of health care insurance
Obama's health care reform law provides coverage for millions of women and allows parents to keep their children on their policies until age 26. Vital new benefits for women and children went into effect as of August 1. Women's preventive health care, such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer, prenatal care, and other services, are now covered with no cost sharing for new health plans.
Romney on the other hand, has declared that if he becomes president: on one day one he will "repeal ObamaCare." This would throw many women back into the "Individual Market" where maternity coverage remains largely unavailable. In 2009, just 13 percent of the health plans available to 30-year-old women provided maternity coverage.
Romney would throw out the entire law even though a study found that 45,000 deaths a year are associated with a lack of health insurance and even though a poll found:
"Eight-five percent favor the requirement that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions, nearly seven in 10 support allowing children under 26 to say on their parents' health plan."
There are many other differences between the two candidates. From Medicare to Social Security, they're oceans apart. While I understand the frustration with the political process, the belief that "there's not a dime's worth of difference" simply couldn't be further from the truth.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat, is the U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district.