GOTV Week: A message from our friends at Planned Parenthood

Call this my impromptu Get-Out-The-Vote Week. And today’s impassioned plea for you — especially you women — to get your butts to the voting booth comes from Tara Brosnan, Field Organizer for the Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates:

Are you disillusioned with politics? Are you so fed up with the attacks on women’s health that you’re not even going to bother to vote? I beg you to reconsider.

As you may already know, women are an important voting block this election. Why?

We keep our eye on Congress on behalf of our clients and supporters. This year, we’ve watched with growing concern as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would have let hospitals refuse to provide emergency abortion care to a woman who would die without it, and a bill that could force rape survivors who choose abortion to prove to the IRS that they were assaulted. Now it’s our turn to speak up. From local to state and congressional districts to the presidential election, there are candidates who support women and our rights, and there are candidates who see women as second-class citizens who think women should be forced to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound before accessing abortion care. It is time for women to play a key role in making decisions this election cycle.

There are well characterized gender differences in politics and voting. One issue that is of utmost importance in Nevada and Clark County is education. In a Pew Research Center study, it was found that 72 percent of women said education is a top priority compared with only 57 percent of men. Clearly, if we want to make big changes in how our schools run and how our children are educated, women need to get out and vote. Surprisingly, for issues such as support of birth control coverage for employees of religiously-affiliated institutions, gender differences are minimal according to the Pew Research Center. The National Women’s Law Center in partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of America conducted polling recently that shows 56 percent of Americans believe that this is an issue of women’s health care and access to birth control, not an issue of religious liberty. It is well known that there are virtually no gender differences in opinions of abortion: approximately half of women and half of men believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Women voters are also invaluable in Nevada and Clark County specifically. In Clark County, there are slightly more registered female voters than males (41.5 percent vs. 39.2). Single women make up 20 percent of the voters in Clark County. This turned out to be important in the recent Nevada state primary election for the State Senate seat in District 1. In this race, 14-year incumbent John Lee was ousted by political newcomer Patricia Spearman, even though Spearman was outspent by Lee 20 to 1. How did she win this race? What it came down to was her stance on women’s reproductive rights. Patricia Spearman is vocally and intensely pro-choice. She was endorsed by Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates and Emily’s List. John Lee, on the other hand, was endorsed by Nevada Right to Life in 2004 for being “pro-life,” and was on record as opposing abortion in all cases. When making phone calls and knocking on doors spreading the word about Patricia Spearman, we consistently turned voters into Spearman supporters because of her stance on choice. Choice is an issue that mobilizes voters, and will continue to do so in the general election. Interestingly, more women turned out in this election than men (54 percent vs. 44). The triumph in the Senate District 1 primary is a snapshot of what is to come in the general election: women are paying attention, women are voting, and people support pro-choice and pro-women’s health candidates.

One of the most important Senate races in the country is in our own state. Nevada’s current Representative of Congressional District 1, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D), is in the running for the U.S. Senate in November. As a Congressional Representative, Berkley has been a champion for women and Planned Parenthood. This seat could very well decide the majority party in the Senate. It is crucial that we elect leaders that we can trust like Shelley Berkley, who would be a Senator who crusades on behalf of Nevadan women and access to live-saving health care.

Now let’s get to the election that everyone is paying attention to, and compare the two presidential candidates. President Obama supports Planned Parenthood and its role in helping women and men receive affordable high-quality health care. He has and will continue to protect federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Mitt Romney has said several times that he will “get rid” of Planned Parenthood, undoubtedly leaving millions of women with extremely limited health care options. President Obama also passed the Affordable Health Care Act, which extends health insurance coverage to 17 million women in the United States who are currently uninsured. Mitt Romney, if elected, would overturn the current health care policy, ending the new benefit that says birth control and other reproductive health care must be provided without a co-pay. President Obama vocally supports Roe v. Wade. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, would attempt to turn Roe v. Wade over to the states, which weakens women’s access to safe and legal abortion care as currently protected under our right to privacy. In the past, Romney has supported “personhood” initiatives which seek to grant rights to fertilized embryos, thereby outlawing abortion in all cases in addition to banning hormonal forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization. It is unclear how he would deal with these initiatives if elected to office.

It is clear that there is only one candidate that supports women’s reproductive rights. According to the Pew Research Center, recent polling showed President Obama leading Romney by 20 points among women voters. Women will decide the outcome of this election, and it is up to us to get these women to the polls.

How? Talk to your friends and family. Educate women and men on the issues that are important to you this election cycle, and educate people about local, state, and federal elections. Make sure everyone you know is registered to vote, and make sure they go and vote in November. Contact progressive organizations in your community, such as Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates. Get involved. Make a difference. And most importantly, vote.

You can contact Tara Bronson to learn more about getting involved in Planned Parenthood by emailing her at tara.brosnan@pprm.org or by calling (702) 878-3622 ext. 200.

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