It should come as no surprise that conservative politicians garner little support from American women, who, incidentally, form 54 percent of the voting pool. Most conservatives maintain ideologically driven, frankly disturbing views on abortion and even contraceptive rights, while Senate Republicans' have consistently battled wage equality bills, making it clear that the gender gap isn't much of a concern to them. That makes former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's stance on women's rights crucial to know since he announced his bid for the presidency on Wednesday. Truth is, Gilmore pretty much reflects the views of the typical Republican. For example, he strongly opposes Roe v. Wade, he's said virtually nothing about the gender wage gap, and he's had little to offer when it comes to protecting women's contraceptive rights.
Yet Gilmore's approach to important women's rights issues is refreshingly moderate compared to those of his conservative colleagues, who have made comments ranging from Jeb Bush's offensive criticisms of single mothers to Mike Huckabee's unabashed statements comparing abortion rights to the Holocaust. Gilmore is by no means your feminist champion, but unlike the majority of his rivals, it's clear that he's willing to make some compromises, especially regarding abortion rights and economic approaches that will address the feminization of poverty in America, whatever his personal beliefs.
Jim Gilmore is pro-life — surprise! He's insisted that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided," and at a 2007 GOP primary debate, he made it clear that he's proud of his record on making abortions more difficult to obtain while governor of Virginia:
The pro-life community, of which I'm a part, would be very proud: passing a 24-hour waiting period, passing informed consent, passing parental notification, signing the partial-birth abortion law in Virginia. So I think the record is there. ... My views are strongly and fundamentally believed and been held that way.
However, when interviewed by CNN that same year, Gilmore made a pretty interesting addition to his staunchly pro-life statements. He described abortion as "not OK," even "[b]etween the beginning and eight weeks," but he turned the question from morality to law, stating, "the question is, should the law prohibit it at that point?" And his answer to his own question was "no." It's clear that Gilmore is never going to agree that women are entitled to make their own decisions about their bodies, but who knows, he might just be able to separate his ideology from politics if pressured to compromise, and frankly, that's more than some of his Republican competitors can say.
While Gilmore has made it clear that he is firmly in the pro-life camp, his views on contraceptive rights and access to birth control are less clear. However, it's quite telling the Republican is no friend to Planned Parenthood. Following the governor's victory in 1997, the organization stated that the defeat of Gilmore's rival "placed a heavy burden on efforts to preserve choice and improve reproductive health care in Virginia."
Planned Parenthood further elaborated, identifying Gilmore's supporters as "religious political extremists" who "eliminated the statewide health and sex education requirements, placing Virginia's teens at increased risk of unintended pregnancy and HIV."
The Gender Wage Gap And The Economy
Another women's rights issue Gilmore certainly hasn't been too vocal about is the gender wage gap. He has never discussed any experiences addressing wage inequality while governor. Nor has he stated that taking measures to alleviate the gap would be a priority under his presidential administration. However, the economy presents a variety of women's rights issues other than the wage gap, from lingering glass ceilings to the feminization of poverty, and when it comes to the economy, Gilmore is surprisingly moderate.
Of unregulated banking, Gilmore stated in 2008 "we have to have more oversight," even if it meant "bigger government." He has also called for more federal funding for low-income energy assistance, although he made these statements quite a few years ago at a 2001 Southern Governor's Association conference on energy. Gilmore has also brought up the need for "an honest conversation about college costs." Affordable tuition isn't necessarily a direct women's rights issue, but it's a step in the right direction to alleviate and address the feminization of poverty.
Gilmore may be moderate compared to Republican rivals, but he is no hero when it comes to feminist economics. He's consistently taken a hard stance against labor unions, has lauded the Bush administration's approach to taxation, and has said almost nothing about maintaining or expanding social welfare programs that help women and single mothers in disproportionately larger numbers.
It's easy to see Gilmore as moderate and even progressive in some respects when comparing him to other Republican candidates, some of whom made sweepingly offensive comments as early on as their very presidential announcements. But the bottom line is that, while he's willing to make some compromises and distance his ideology from politics, Gilmore is no candidate for any woman who wants to see her most fundamental rights protected by the government.
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