It looks like the recent (and weird) Republican fixation on women's lady-parts is pushing female voters straight into Barack Obama's arms. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll of voters in 12 battleground states reveals “a yawning gender gap" that has Mitt Romney and Obama winning even support from men, but Obama's popularity among women running almost two-to-one.
Democrats have been able to rely on women voters since the term “gender gap” was coined in 1980, when women favoured Jimmy Carter by nine points over Ronald Reagan. But more female voters than ever have surged to Obama since mid-February: precisely when a series of backward comments by Republican candidates – coupled with a raft of regressive laws and proposals in Congress and Republican-controlled states – turned the conversation towards limiting women's access to contraception, abortion and even reproductive healthcare. For the first time in a generation, rights women take for granted are under threat; and they're angry about it.
Birth control of a nation
They should be, judging by the track record. In Texas, tens of thousands of poor and working women are losing access to healthcare because Republican lawmakers decided to cut funding for any clinic with any connection to Planned Parenthood, the non-profit organisation that is the country's biggest provider of advice and help on contraception and sexual health. Republican-controlled legislatures in Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and other states have taken similar measures, although some have been blocked by the courts.
Last month, the Senate debated a Republican-sponsored proposal to allow employers to refuse to provide health insurance for any medical service they had moral objections to. Arizona lawmakers passed a similar measure that would require female employees who wanted coverage for contraceptive drugs to prove to their bosses that it was for medical reasons, not for birth control.
Romney: no knight in shining armour
Mitt Romney, the almost certain winner of the Republican presidential nomination, is now trying to distance himself from the seething mess brought on by the overzealous religious right of the party. But he's probably too late. When the right-wing shock-jock Rush Limbaugh called a female law student a "slut" and called for her to share videos of her having sex with the public, Romney's response was lame. That, along with his pledge to “end” support for Planned Parenthood, will make it hard for him to “Etch-A-Sketch” the problem away.