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Inside Story: US 2012
Can Obama win the support of women voters?
Both Republicans and Democrats are working to solidify support among female voters who could turn the electoral tide.
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2012 11:28

In 2008, Barack Obama won the White House with the help of a clear majority of women voters. Ahead of the 2012 presidential elections not much has changed and he will need their support again. That is why Democrats have launched a massive drive targeting women.

Their efforts are being led by First Lady Michelle Obama. More popular than her husband, her name is on millions of letters sent this week to women identified as independents or Democrats. Their main message: the current US president's healthcare act is best for you and your families.

The Democrats are also trying to capitalise on the Republican party's focus on the morality of contraception. Republicans have been accused of launching a war on women after presidential candidate Rick Santorum said birth control is harmful to women.

If elected, his main rival Mitt Romney wants to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the country's biggest reproductive health provider. His campaign says the government should not be borrowing money from China to pay for abortions. In fact, Planned Parenthood is already not allowed to spend federal money on abortions.

"The undue focus on women's health issues reveals a lack of ability for policy makers to tackle real issues who instead victimise women... Women have been easy targets  across the world and we will not be taken back in time and treated as second-class citizens."

 Nina Turner,  Ohio State senator 

In 2011, state legislators enacted a record number of anti-abortion laws, leading to some protests.

In one of the most controversial proposals in Virginia every woman seeking an abortion would be required to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound.

In response, lawmakers in at least six states - all women and all Democrats - are proposing regulating men's access to reproductive health care.

So, what has Barack Obama done for women voters in the last four years and can he capture their support this year? And what impact might the debate over contraception have on the presidential election?

Inside Story speaks with Emily Douglas, a senior editor at the Nation magazine; Sabrina Schaeffer, the executive director of the conservative group the Independent Women's Forum; and Kim Gandy, the vice-president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.


The female voting edge:

  • A USA Today/Gallup poll in late February found the American public closely divided on the birth control issue, with 47 per cent in favour of scrapping the law and 44 per cent opposed
  • Four years ago, Obama won the votes of 56 per cent of women, who cast 53 per cent of the ballots
  • Female voters narrowly went for the Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections that cost the Democrats control of the House. Obama's re-election chances hinge in large part, analysts say, on winning support from women

 

Source:
Al Jazeera
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