In Election About Economy, Women's Rights Hotly Debated

This election was supposed to be about the economy, right? But just two weeks before election day, reproductive rights and women's rights remain at the fore of the electoral debate.  That was helped along by Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who referred to "binders full of women," during last week's debate.

Voters took to the twittersphere and social media to contemplate just what these binders looked like. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show pounced. 


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Websites and tumblrs sprang up overnight; most were comical. But some laid out the stark differences between the candidates on women’s access to legal reproductive health care. 

After the first presidential debate polls indicated that undecided women were moving toward voting for Romney. So Romney's gaffe on women may have been a gift -- a chance for the president to argue that Romney's position on abortion is out of the mainstream. Romney has said he would outlaw it except in cases of rape and incest.

But a look at a Gallup poll from May 2012 indicates that the number of Americans who identify as “pro-choice” has dropped from 47 percent to 41 percent. And half (50 percent) of Americans identify as “pro-life."  

It's not clear that some younger women even understand the categories. Talking with potential young women voters in Washington Square Park last week I asked NYU student Theresa Eakin if she thought abortion should remain legal. She responded, “Yes, I’m pro-life. I think women should be able to control their own bodies.”

What is clear is that the conversation has veered away from the economy and into one of the most heartfelt but divisive issues for the American electorate.