For Monica, the only question about attending today’s presidential rally was whether or not she could manage to handle her rambunctious toddler, or if she should leave her with friends. The teacher and mother of three from a nearby Denver suburb chose the latter, and instead joined a crowd of thousands to see President Barack Obama speak, headlined by former law student Sandra Fluke.
Monica was accompanied by her husband, a Colorado small business owner. He was by no means the only man at the event, even though it was expected to be heavily-focused on health care and women’s rights, especially once the appearance of Fluke was announced. According to Monica, the crowd was evenly split by sex, with a liberal influx of children as well.
With a series of ads attacking Republican opponent Mitt Romney over his stance on the Affordable Care Act, Planned Parenthood, abortion, and contraception, women’s health has turned into the number one issue recently for the president. A new ad with actress Elizabeth Banks explaining her support for Obama and her belief in the good Planned Parenthood does for the women of the country is being talked about all over the Internet. Women, especially single women, are flocking to the President in droves. It’s that focus that drew many in the crowd to hear Obama speak, regardless of their sex.
Of course, not everyone there was a supporter. Outside, protesting the event, was a member of the so-called Personhood movement. Fresh off the announcement that they had likely gathered enough signatures get back on the Colorado ballot (fourth time), a member of the radical anti-choice group stood by the exit. A large poster of blown-up, graphic images of allegedly aborted fetuses were on display to shock Obama supporters, many of whom positioned themselves between the protester and young children as they walked by the display.
But once inside the arena, the audience was soon greeted by remarks from Fluke.
“All Mr. Romney could say was ‘Those were not the words I would have chosen,’” said Fluke, discussing the controversy over her infamous attack by Rush Limbaugh regarding her support of no co-pay birth control. “Well, Mr. Romney, you are not the candidate we choose.”
The appearance of both Fluke and Obama left many Coloradans in the audience feeling more energized than ever about the 2012 election. “We needed a little kick in the pants to get fired up,” said Monica, who said she and her husband and friends were even more eager to go once they learned of Fluke’s appearance and that the speech would be focused on women’s issues.
I loved hearing her speak. She got the crowd up and rolling. She did a very good job of introducing the President and talking about how she felt supported by him, and how she needed us to be supporting him.
Monica was excited to see the renewed energy behind the audience’s embrace of protecting women’s health as a campaign issue. “For us, our priority is protection of a woman’s right to choose, particularly because we have two daughters we are raising here, but also because we have a son.”
It would seem that a rally so highly focused on women’s health and rights would be less interesting for the men in the audience, but if Monica’s husband is any indication, that wasn’t true at all. “He was very excited to be there, and very excited that it was women’s-issues focused,” she said.
I think he realizes as much as any woman what’s at stake right now. For him, he has two daughters and I hear him talk a lot about what it will mean for their future if Romney is elected versus what it will mean if Obama is elected, and I think that’s a high priority for him.
“We want to make sure our daughters have choice. That they have health care that covers everything. That they don’t have to explain to their bosses what they need, and that their health care choices will be theirs.”
The President also focused on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and on benefits for women in particular. Health care reform has become a lightening rod of partisan bickering, with Republicans declaring that the ACA punishes and harms small businesses. As the wife of a small business owner, Monica disagreed. “I haven’t seen our rate increases for next year, but I don’t think it will hurt us. Our price goes up every year, and it hasn’t looked that different in the last two years.”
When it comes to the state exchange, they are counting the days until they can obtain insurance for their family through that as an alternative.
“Once the exchanges get up,” Monica said, “we think it will have a very positive effect on our premiums. There has to be something better. We’re just in that holding pattern.”
Republicans argue that talking about women’s issues allows Obama to avoid talking about the economy, and that economic issues matter more to Americans. However, Monica believes that women’s health and rights are a more immediate threat.
“The economy will turn around in time. It takes time and it’s already happening,” she said, “but it’s a big ship. This women’s health care issue is bigger. We could turn the economy around tomorrow, and if my daughter gets pregnant at 16 we’re screwed. It doesn’t matter how perfect the economy is, our daughter’s life is fundamentally different for ever. Her children’s life is different, and probably their children, too.”
When it comes to voting, there is no doubt in her mind that women’s health is her family’s number one issue. She and her husband don’t discuss business prospects at night. but who could be the next nominee to the Supreme Court. “It’s so much bigger.”