10/12/2012 10:07 am ET Updated Dec 12, 2012

A Choice That Matters

Governor Romney couldn't help himself. After telling the Des Moines Register editorial board earlier in the week that, "There's no legislation with regards to abortion that I'm familiar with that would become part of my agenda," and then facing a barrage of backlash from the conservative community, he decided to backtrack. And he didn't just backtrack, he flipped and flopped like a fish out of water, telling a reporter "I've said time and time again, I'm a pro-life candidate. I'll be a pro-life president. The actions I'll take immediately are to remove funding for Planned Parenthood. It will not be part of my budget."

So, the formally staunchly pro-choice former Massachusetts Governor has done it again. A couple flips and a few flops and shift and a pander later, who knows what he really thinks when it comes to choice. This is the same man who once tried to flank Ted Kennedy on the left on women's issues, and then he vowed to support the Personhood amendment in Mississippi during the Republican primary this year.

Republican candidates have been quite out in the open about their lack of support for the rights of women. For some of them, like a Todd Akin, they probably truly believe the things they say and the positions they take. For others, however, like Mitt Romney, it's even worse. They simply don't seem to care.

As we size up the next president, the next leader of the free world, it is important to know exactly how much they trust women, and how much they recognize the obstacles that women face both here and abroad. Supporting adequate reproductive health care, which prevents premature death and provides for healthier families, is a major indicator of where a candidate stands in support of women. If a candidate can't decide on this major issue, he is clearly not prepared to deal with the more complex issues of women worldwide.

In a world where women perform "66 percent of the world's work but receive only 11 percent of the world's income and own only 1 percent of the world's land," disparities of health, education, nutrition and violence against women should be a major concern of whomever is elected in November.

If the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, these disparities will come back to haunt this nation with future generations world-wide being raised in an environment of hopelessness -- a sure breeding ground for industrialized world versus developing world conflicts into the next century.

Polls show that the economy is the number one issue to men and women alike, but it is undeniable that the economy is very much a "women's issue." Domestically, economic issues like social security and Medicare disproportionately affect women, and issues like paycheck fairness and paid leave time change the way America is viewed across the world and, in turn, affect our ability to make positive social change for women in other countries.

As president, if Mitt Romney will not be in favor of equal pay for equal work here, how can he be a voice of moral clarity in developing nations where women are viewed as property? How can we preach equality abroad when we don't favor it at home? As stated before, Mitt Romney probably just doesn't really care about these issues of equality for women -- whatever is most politically expedient is likely his position at any given time. But if we start to see women's rights through a new lens -- one of economic freedom and moral righteousness -- maybe it wouldn't be so politically expedient for him not to care. If Mitt Romney cannot decide on the issue of choice, where does he stand on solving the world-wide issue of gender disparities that are so rooted in a woman's ability to control her own fertility?