The GOP carnival arrived in Michigan on Tuesday, and now prepares for the final stretch toward Super Tuesday. Romney won the Michigan primary by focusing on jobs and the economy, but there are a number of Michigan-specific issues that clearly affect women, who make up 50.9% of its population. While a recent NBC/Marist poll shows Romney with a slight 6% lead against Santorum amongst women voters in Michigan, female voters still prefer President Obama’s stances and policies on women’s issues compared to any of the Republican candidates.
Abortion: Pro-choice, rejoice. Romney has flip-flopped on this issue a number of times, yet currently “identifies as a pro-life conservative.” He supports a woman’s right to choose, and the sales of contraception across states. However, attitudes in the state of Michigan are unaffected as the recent implementation of the partial-abortion ban has not significantly decreased the number of executed abortions in the state since this procedure has been federally banned since 2007.
Same-sex couples and gay marriage: No marriage, ever. In 2010, it was estimated that there were about 251,000 gay, lesbian, and bisexual people living in the state of Michigan. 53% of this demographic were members of female same-sex couples. Romney has insisted that marriage is a union between a man and woman, and his stance was thrown into headlines this past December when he had a photo opportunity to sit with the average Joe, Vietnam veteran named Bob Garon, who happened to be gay. It should also be noted that Romney has been an avid proponent of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Immigrant women: No Dream Act, no path to legalization. After 2005, the number of foreign-born populations in Michigan has increased by 25%. Of those who enter the state, 25% of that population have science or engineering degrees. Unfortunately, for the remaining 75%, Romney does not believe in hand-outs for the undocumented, nor provide a path to legalization. This is unfortunate, particularly for those in Michigan hoping for the Dream Act to pass. Romney promises to veto it, and gets a bit awkward when you say you’re undocumented and there are photographers around.
Women and public assistance: I'm only worried about the middle-class. In an interview with CNN, Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it. I'm not concerned about the very rich. They're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95% of Americans who right now are struggling. You can focus on the very poor, that's not my focus.” This is quite an unfortunate quote, as according to the 2010 Census, approximately 2.3 million people in Michigan (about 20% of its population) are living in a household with Supplemental Security Income (SSI), receiving cash public assistance income, or Food Stamps/SNAP. Of that population, roughly 26% of households are headed by women in Michigan.
Women in agriculture: Food is a national security issue. In 2007, there was about 10 million acres of land dedicated to agriculture, slightly more than a quarter of the entire state of Michigan. Of those farms, 65.7% were between 1 to 99 acres in size, and 86.9% were owned by individuals, families, or given to non-corporate use. Of the population of farm owners and operators, 17% were women. While Romney has supported farm subsidies, it is unclear whether his farm subsidies benefit non-corporate farmers, as opposed to large scale agri-business corporations. Here's what he said about the subsidies during the debate in Detroit in 2007:
Romney fails to meet the needs of Michigan's diverse population of women, despite having an atypical Republican stance on abortion. Despite Romney’s flirtation with that particular issue, the same NBC/Marist poll found that women voters still feel that President Obama understands women’s issues the most.
Actually, the overall results found that Obama takes the lead with women voters across several polls conducted in the last year.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore