Women vow to be heard in US presidential election
There is no single issue that will galvanise women voters and send them to the polls in the November 6 presidential election.
"It's not just one issue - it's about 10," said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority and a prominent US feminist.
"Women are going to vote their own interests on Medicare, Social Security, family planning, reproductive rights, equal pay - I could go on," said Smeal, former president of the National Organization for Women. "We've got to vote, as you all know. Believe me: women will be heard."
Smeal appeared recently alongside Gloria Steinem at a Washington luncheon recognizing the 40th anniversary of Ms magazine, which Steinem, a journalist and activist, co-founded in 1972.
The two are among the most famous names of the women's movement in the United States. Their groundbreaking work on women's rights in the latter part of the 20th Century changed women's political lives more ways than in the previous several centuries combined.
Organisers played down any political comments during the luncheon because the magazine is a non-profit and barred from election advocacy, but Smeal and Steinem made themselves available for interviews afterward as part of their work toward re-electing President Barack Obama.
They said they were certain that in the upcoming election women voters would be a major factor, as they were in 2008 when 56% of them voted for Obama.
Steinem, 78, said she could not imagine a candidate worse than Republican Mitt Romney, while Smeal gave example after example of how Republican policies would take women backward.
The conservative party is seeking to cancel federal funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the largest providers of contraceptives and abortion services in the country, and to repeal Obama's Affordable Care Act, which helps women in numerous ways from prohibiting insurers from charging women more in premiums to ending co-payments and deductibles for contraceptives and preventive care.
"Let's be real," Smeal, 73, told dpa. "They keep on muddling their message, but every women's group knows they want to end Obama-care."
Steinem said the Affordable Care Act improves women's health care in a number of ways - from breast cancer screening to free birth control and from nursing home care to vaccinations.
"It is a tremendous preventive care package, and that's why the women's movement is for the Affordable Care Act. We will leave no sister behind," she said.
She criticised Romney for his support of a constitutional human life amendment, which she said "would mean the foetus is a human, meaning the womb could be searched and a pregnant woman could be locked up to protect the foetus' rights."
Looking at election by the numbers, Smeal spoke of a gender gap that could reach its historical high of 11 percentage points, saying it will be a factor in the election.
In 2008, 56% of women voted for Obama, while 49% of men voted for John McCain.