Grab your popcorn and get ready
to bang your head against the wall. Debate season is in full swing. We know that
the questions pertaining to domestic women’s issues during these four
televised verbal jousts will be slim to none. We can expect a "litmus
test" Supreme Court nomination question, an equal pay for equal work
question, and if we’re lucky, a sex ed question. But the range, and
depth of the questions, will leave us panting for more.
Like our colleagues at ThisIsWhatWomenWant.com and Women’s eNews, we at RH Reality Check thought we’d
envision the questions we wished the candidates could face before an
audience of millions. Preferrably, they’d be asked by Rachel Maddow,
Campbell Brown, and Gwen Ifill teaming up in a cross-network collaboration,
while the usual crowd of male pundits sat on the sidelines. But regardless
of who’s asking them, these are the questions we want to see.
Feel free to add your own ideas
for questions — and how you’d like to see them answered — in the comments
- The teen birth rate increased in 2007 for the first time in years.
We currently have the highest teen pregnancy rate of all developed
nations. To what do you ascribe these trends, and what would you do to
address the issue of teen pregnancy?
- While many people disagree
on the issue of abortion rights, no one can argue that abortions are
almost always a result of unplanned pregnancies. What are some steps
you would take to lower the number of unplanned pregnancies?
- Do you believe that barrier contraception — aka condoms — stops
the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections? Is this
information important, and should it be given to teens as part of federally-funded
- Do you believe that scientific
evidence suggests contraception is
the same thing as abortion?
How would you respond to groups that want government
agencies to classify it as such?
- The United States ranks 41st
in maternal mortality. How do your health plans address improving health
outcomes for American mothers given the fact that maternal mortality
rates in this country have flat-lined in recent
- One of the unfortunate side effects of recent immigration-related
legislation has been to block off basic health care to many women
living within our borders. What measures would you take as president,
under your healthcare plan or otherwise, to secure access to
reproductive health services, for immigrant women, who often face extra hurdles–including discrimination or threat of deportation–in getting the essential care they need?
- (For Senator McCain): In the
past, you have stated that you believe abortion should be legal in the
cases of incest and rape. Your party platform
and your running mate
have stated they don’t believe there should be such an exception.
What would your position be as president on these exceptions and how
would you justify it?
- (For Senator Obama): Can you clarify your position on whether a health exception for
a late-term abortion ban would include a mental health exception, and
what that would mean?
While women have made strides
in the workplace in recent years, their average salary still lingers below men’s. How do you intend to ensure that
women have equal pay?
- (For Senator McCain): You voted against the
Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
and said you believe the key to pay advancement is more education for
women. With women now graduating college at a higher rate than men, to what do you attribute
the enduring pay gap?
- Statistics show that women, particularly women
of color, are hardest hit by poverty. With the economy in a state of
near-collapse, what would you do to address the issue of poverty and
help these women — often the sole breadwinners in their families-swim
against the tide?
- Solving the current health
care crisis is particularly crucial women, who need regular and fairly
frequent reproductive care. How would your health care plan enable women
to live fuller lives without worrying about health care costs?
- Do you believe that insurance
companies should be required to cover contraception?
- As president, would you seek
to expand or reduce the scope of the Family and Medical
Leave Act? Why
or why not?
- What is your early childhood
education plan, how would you fund and enact it, and how do you envision
that plan affecting women’s lives?
- What is your plan to combat
the alarming growth of HIV/AIDS
in America, specifically
among black women?
What is sexism in your
mind and what is one instance you’ve noticed on the campaign trail?
What role can a president play in combating cultural sexism?
- Who are some of your female
role models? Who are some female role models you’d like your daughters
As we head into the debates
full speed ahead, it’s interesting to note that up until now, some
of the toughest grilling of candidates on women’s issues had come
from seemingly unlikely sources. Both the infamous interview with McCain on "The View" and
the interviews with both candidates in the October
issue of Glamour are more informative and hard-hitting than a lot of
what you’ll see on mainstream networks — particularly when it comes
to women’s issues. It will be interesting to see whether the debate
moderators take their cue from these women’s media outlets, and probe
below the surface of issues that matter to American women.