From The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic.

DENVER– Before the first presidential debate began at the University of Denver campus on Wednesday night, Cecile Richards, national president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told the Colorado Independent she was hoping to see the candidates discuss some of the ways women’s access to health care is tied to the national economy and the financial prospects of the nation’s citizens.

Richards said the tendency among the political class to, in effect, rope off women’s health as a social issue is a “falsehood” that diminishes the impact of the subject on the larger health of the country.

“Investing in women’s health is one of the best economic investments you can make. It boosts families in every way,” she said, speaking at a break-neck pace in a phone interview. “Every dollar spent saves a minimum of four dollars in costs.”

“Mitt Romney is proposing policies that would eliminate health care of for millions of women. It’s terrible economics. He’s talking about eliminating the family planning policy put into place during the Nixon Administration,” she said, referring to the Title X section of the Public Health Service Act passed in 1970. “It means eliminating access to not just birth control but well-woman visits and cancer screenings.

“He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which for the first time has made it illegal for insurance companies to deny or overcharge women for reproductive health coverage. That’s money in women’s pockets every month… Romney would throw 5 million people off birth control? It’s an economic disaster.”

Richards said women in swing states like Colorado are watching the candidates closely to see how they come down on access to health care and that the candidate debates will play a large role in helping undecided voters choose whom to support, a view backed up by survey results released today by Project New America.

In a presentation to reporters in near the capitol in Denver on Wednesday, representatives from the political research and consulting firm said they contacted 4,500 voters online and interviewed 500 self-described undecided voters in four-state swing territory in the southwest that includes Arizona Colorado Nevada and New Mexico. The four states together now tally 31 Electoral College votes. Florida now counts 29 Electoral College votes and Ohio 18.

The undecided voters were largely unaffiliated with a political party and moderate in their views of the issues. Nearly 60 percent were women. The voters said that a top priority was whether they trusted the candidates and that the debates would therefore play a large role in their decision-making process.

Although undecided voters are almost by definition not one-issue voters in ythat it would be obvious to them whom to vote for early in the election season, the pollsters found that 70 percent of these undecided voters say they believe women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their pregnancies. When considering the candidate positions on women’s health, undecided voters in Colorado and Nevada– the two most intensely contested battlegrounds in the southwest region– swing wildly toward Obama. Roughly 50 percent say they share the views of the president on matters of women’s health. Only roughly 10 percent say the same about Romney.

Richards said if she were the debate moderator, she’d ask for specifics on the candidate proposals.

“I would like to ask ‘What’s your plan? Millions of women still don’t have access to health care. We do the worst of all the nations of the developed world in preventing unintended pregnancies. We could do much more to catch diseases early through screening… How would my life be different if you were president?’”

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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."

  • Talk (Coldplay)

    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."