WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama tried to burnish his credentials with a crucial group of voters Friday, saying his administration would do more for women’s health and economic status than his Republican opponents.
Speaking at a White House forum on women in the workforce, Obama defended his attempts to boost health care access, paychecks and employment opportunities for women. He declared much of the recent political back-and-forth over women’s issues “oversimplified.”
“Women are not some monolithic bloc. Women are not an interest group,” the president told a group of policymakers and business leaders. “You shouldn’t be treated that way. Women are over half this country and its workforce.”
Although they may not vote as a bloc, women are viewed as critical to determining who will occupy the White House next year. Polls show Democrats have recently gained back ground lost with women in 2010, in part by casting Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and block federal support for contraception as a “war on women.”
Obama seemed to try to distance himself from his party’s tough talk on Friday, but he stuck to the core accusation that Republicans are trying to take away women’s health care and federal protections.
“When people talk about repealing health care reform, they’re not just saying we should stop protecting women with pre-existing conditions,” Obama said. “When people say we should get rid of Planned Parenthood, they’re not just talking about restricting a woman’s ability to make her health decisions. They’re talking about denying, as a practical matter, the preventive care, like mammograms, that millions of women rely on.”
Republicans fired back quickly, seizing on the latest jobs reports to argue that women are flailing in an economy with Obama at the helm.