Is the Republican Party waging a war against women? Perhaps the best way to find out is just to ask women.
Earlier this month, USA Today reported that President Barack Obama holds a 51 percent to 42 percent lead among registered voters. Much of the president's lead comes from women. Since February, the shift in this demographic is startling. The margin of women under 50 preferring him to Mitt Romney has changed from 49 percent to 60 percent and Romney's support has declined in that group from 44 percent to 30 percent.
The only group where Romney has a lead is men over 50, where the presumptive Republican challenger leads 56 percent to 38 percent. The gender gap is quite real. What events have occurred in the last two months to turn public opinion this much this fast? The tipping point was likely reached in the Senate in February.
The Blunt Amendment proposed to "respect the right of conscience" by allowing any insurer or employer to refuse to provide health-care coverage for any medical treatment that is contrary to the insurer's religious beliefs.
The overwhelming majority of American women interpreted this amendment as applying strictly to women's health coverage, and specifically to reproductive rights.
The only woman to have voted for this amendment, Lisa Murkowski, said, "I have never had a vote I've taken where I have felt I let down more people that believed in me," after Alaskans overwhelmingly disapproved of her vote.
This piece of legislation was the last straw for Olympia Snowe. The three-term Republican senator announced her retirement the day after the Blunt Amendment came to a vote in the Senate.
Thirteen states, 12 of which have Republican governors and legislatures, have enacted laws that restrict abortion rights without providing for health exceptions.
The Washington Post reported that in 2011, state legislatures passed 92 bills restricting abortion rights, almost all of which were enacted in states where Republicans controlled the legislature and governorship.
Whether you're anti-abortion or pro-abortion rights, it's easy to see why women would conclude that the Republican Party doesn't represent their interests.
Women have other problems with the Republican Party's legislative record. Last month, the Houston Chronicle reported that after the Texas state legislature cut funding to Planned Parenthood, one Republican staffer's resignation letter to her boss, Texas state legislator Myra Crownover, said, "I cannot in good conscience continue to be associated with you or a legislature that would so unabashedly and unapologetically belittle the hard-fought rights of women. ... Trampling the rights of women in an effort to grandstand against the federal government is simply wrong and I cannot be a part of it."
This is not the right of conscience Republicans had in mind when they proposed the Blunt Amendment.
Pay equity is another concern for women. April 17 is "Equal Pay Day." It is the date in the new year that women doing the same work as men have to work in the new year to earn the same amount as men earned in the last year. Beleaguered Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker picked Good Friday to announce signing a bill to repeal that state's equal pay enforcement act.
On Wednesday, Mitt Romney wouldn't say if he approved of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, one of the first bills that Obama signed into law in 2009. That law made it easier for people to file wage discrimination lawsuits. Perhaps he was caught off guard by the question, but his "we'll get back to you" response adds to the general impression that he is out of touch with people, and it does nothi ng to soften the image of the Republican Party not caring about women's issues. And in politics, image matters even more than issues.
Maybe the Democrats are overstating the case by saying the Republican Party is engaged in a war on women. But as the old saying goes, "if it quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck and hangs out with other ducks, it's a duck."