Obama vs. Romney 101: 5 differences on women's issues

President Obama won the women’s vote four years ago, and he’ll need to again to win reelection, given Mitt Romney’s strength among male voters. Here are some of the women’s issues on which the candidates differ.

3. Abortion

Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP/File
Todd Akin, Republican, candidate for US Senate from Missouri, speaks at the Missouri Farm Bureau candidate interview and endorsement meeting in Jefferson City, Mo., on Aug. 10. His comments on abortion and rape have rippled through the presidential election.

Obama supports a woman’s right to choose abortion, and opposes efforts to add restrictions to that right at both the federal and state level.

Romney and Ryan are both anti-abortion, though Romney allows for the exceptions of rape, incest, and a threat to the life of the mother. Before he joined the GOP ticket, Ryan favored only the “life of the mother” exception, but now he says he’s comfortable with the other exceptions. The Republican Party platform has also long opposed abortion, calling for a constitutional ban without exceptions.

Controversy around the abortion issue exploded Aug. 19, when Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin said in a TV interview that a women's body could prevent pregnancy during a “legitimate rape.” He opposes abortion under any circumstance. Congressman Akin’s refusal to quit his Senate race, despite demands from top Republicans, including Romney, guarantees abortion will remain in the national campaign spotlight.

In a bid to energize women voters, a majority of whom support Obama, Democrats will feature many speakers at their convention, including top activists on reproductive rights. They include Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke. Ms. Fluke became famous when she told a House panel that birth control was a health issue for women, leading Rush Limbaugh to call her a “slut.”

It’s worth noting, however, that there’s no gender gap in views on abortion: A recent Pew poll shows half of men and women believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

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