Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren capitalized on Sen. Scott Brown's (R) spotty voting record on women's issues during their first debate Thursday night, pointing out that the self-described "pro-choice" senator voted against pro-choice Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and co-sponsored legislation that would allow any employer or insurer to deny women coverage of certain health services, including birth control, for "moral reasons."
Brown responded with an anecdote about having fought to protect his mother from his abusive father since he was a child. "You should stop scaring women, professor," he said. "I've been fighting for women since I was six years old."
Brown said he supports Roe v. Wade, access to birth control and insurance coverage of abortion for victims of rape in the military. He co-sponsored Sen. Roy Blunt's (R-Mo.) controversial legislation to allow employers to deny contraception coverage, he said, because he didn't want to "pit women against their church and their faith."
"I have the same position as Sen. [Ted] Kennedy on providing a conscience exemption that allows Catholics in particular, churches, hospitals, health care facilities, that practice faith ... to have that ability to not provide certain care and coverages."
Brown was referring to a letter Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, in which he said he believes "in a conscience protection for Catholics in the health field." Brown has cited the letter repeatedly in campaign ads and interviews lately as he fights for Kennedy's seat.
Warren fired back that religious freedom is not at stake, because President Obama already put in place conscience exemptions and accommodations for churches and faith-based organizations. The Blunt amendment, she argued, "doesn't say religious and it doesn't say religious exemption. It talks about any vague moral objection ... I don't think that's what Senator Kennedy fought for, and I think it's inappropriate for Senator Brown to characterize Senator Kennedy's work in that way. Senator Kennedy got out there and fought for women's access to full range of health care services, and that's what I want to do as well."
Brown and Warren also sparred over the fact that Brown voted against confirming then-Supreme Court nominee Kagan, who supports abortion rights and is the former dean of the Harvard Law School, where Warren is a professor. Warren said she thinks women should be able to count on Roe v. Wade and that she was "really surprised" when Brown cast his vote.
"I'm sorry I didn't vote for your boss," Brown retorted. "There is a litmus test for me. A judge has to have good judicial character ... and also has to have courtroom or judicial experience."
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99 Problems (JAY-Z)
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/06/03/494238/fehrnstrom-shiny-objects-women/" target="_hplink">said on Sunday</a> that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/04/30/perino-equal-pay-issue-is-a-distraction-for-just-48-hours/" target="_hplink">called the equal pay issue</a> "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Just My Imagination (The Temptations)
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/john-mccain-war-on-women_n_1455591.html" target="_hplink">delivered a floor speech</a> in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Butterfly Fly Away (Miley & Billy Ray Cyrus)
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-05/priebus-says-gender-battle-as-fictonal-as-caterpillar-war.html" target="_hplink">said in an April interview</a> on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Distraction (Angels And Airwaves)
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
We Don't Care (Kanye West)
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."