Obama's Volley in the War to Get Women Voters
"Closing this pay gap -- ending pay discrimination -- is about far more than simple fairness," Obama said today. "When more women are bringing home the bacon, but bringing home less of it than men who are doing the same work, that weakens families, it weakens communities, it’s tough on our kids, it weakens our entire economy."
Early into the report, the administration also highlights this year's controversial contraception mandate.
"Women typically use contraception for 30 years of their lives, and the average cost of contraception is $30 to $50 per month," it states. "Under the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services coverage provision, insurance companies are now required to cover contraception at no extra cost. In addition, President Obama has consistently supported and defended Title X family planning clinics, proposing funding increases for these clinics in each year of his Administration. For many women, a family planning clinic is their entry point into the health care system and is their primary source of care. This is especially true for low-income women, women who are uninsured, and for Hispanic and African American women. These services are highly cost-effective, saving $4 for every $1 spent. And in April 2011, President Obama refused to allow language barring Title X funding to Planned Parenthood to be included in the federal budget."
In his address today, Obama gave a short nod to this. "And later this year, women will receive new access to recommended preventive care like domestic violence screening and contraception at no additional cost," he said.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Attorney General Eric Holder participated in the forum.
The White House was questioned Thursday on the campaign tenor of the event; White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended it as not "inherently political" but motivated by a desire to grow the economy.
"So what day are you having a men’s conference on the economy?" Ed Henry of Fox News asked.
"Well, stay tuned," Carney responded. "Ed, that’s kind of a silly question."
"So why are we focusing on small businesses with a Small Business Job Creation Act? Are we discriminating against big businesses?" Carney continued. "We’re focusing on women because there are a number of issues that are important with regards to women in the economy, women’s safety, women in education, that are very distinct and important, and we’re proud to host the conference."
He sounded the standard campaign notes that backed up the assertion that today's event was geared toward nabbing and holding onto women voters -- a conference that was less about discussing women's path forward in general and more about replaying the president's gender-associated policy initiatives.
"This administration has engaged in a number of policy approaches designed to address women in the economy, including the very first bill that the president signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Act -- Fair Pay Act -- and there are a variety of initiatives that this administration has put forward that deal with issues of concern to women in particular," Carney said. "There is the Violence Against Women Act. We have an office overseen by the Vice President’s office that deals with that legislation. So these are important policy initiatives; that’s why we’re having the conference."
At the forum, Obama said he was motivated by the fact that "women are over half this country and its workforce -- not to mention 80 percent of my household, if you count my mother-in-law."
"Just 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women," Obama said. "Fewer than 20 percent of the seats in Congress are occupied by women. Is it possible that Congress would get more done if there were more women in Congress?"