By MIA FREEDMAN
Australian politicians: you have been warned. If you threaten to take away the reproductive rights of women they will come out and vote against you.
A gender gap worked in Obama’s favor. He won 55 percent of women to Romney’s 44 percent, which was enough to give him a decisive victory.
According to the Huffington Post:
“Women’s strong support in the swing states gave Obama a significant advantage over Romney. While Obama lost by 10 percentage points among independents in Ohio, he won by 12 points among women in the state. In New Hampshire, women voted for Obama over Romney by a margin of 58 to 42 percent, while Pennsylvania showed a 16-point gender gap that tipped the scale toward Obama. “
Listen up politicians: the biggest factor in the re-election of Barack Obama has been the female vote. And thank God. Because like many, I always wondered how the polls could have been so close when half of the American voting public have a vagina.
Especially when one party – the Republicans, influenced by and beholden heavily to the far-right Tea Party movement – have shown such crass disregard for the rights of women to control what happens in and around their vagina.
From Republican Todd Akin’s repugnant claim that ‘legitimate rape’ will not result in pregnancy because “the body has a way of shutting that down’ as a way to push for laws that would make abortion illegal even in the case of rape victims to the claim by Republican Richard Mourdouk that a pregnancy resulting from rape would be “God’s Gift” and should be welcomed, the prospect of a Republican government was a frightening one for many women.
Already in the US, abortion is illegal or severely restricted under state law (although legally, the landmark case of Roe v Wade prevails).
Already in 31 states, when children are born as a result of rape (often because abortion was not legal in that state and rape victim could not afford to other states), the rapist father has visitation rights. Visitation rights. So the mother must have on-going contact with her rapist? What part of GIFT is that exactly?
But Mitt Romney and his hard right running mate Paul Ryan were not satisfied with this appalling status quo. Paul Ryan is behind a bill that seeks to give a fertilised egg the same rights as a person – from the moment of conception. Were it to be passed, the consequences of this law would basically make a woman’s body the property of the state from the moment she has unprotected sex, without any rights over what happens to her.
Now let’s take a look how those comments – and the strident anti-choice platform of the Republican party – played out for them with voters yesterday:
(1) Akin loses in Missouri, gets less than 40% of the vote: according to exit polls, close to 70% of women said Akin’s remark on rape and abortion in an August television interview was important to their decision, and Akin couldn’t get the majority of men to look past that moment, either.’
(2) Mourdock loses in Indiana with 44% of the vote: after he said: “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
So what does all this have to do with Australia? Fortunately, the situation is different here. No major political party is proposing to ammend the current abortion laws. Yet.
But the local take away is that women proved to be a major political force in this election. Women came out to vote and they sent a clear message about who they wanted to win.
Reproductive rights and the desire for women to have autonomy over their bodies were certainly not the only issues in this election. But they had a significant impact.
And any politican who underestimates the power of the female vote is a fool.
Here’s a taste of how Twitter reacted to the news of President Obama’s re-election last night: