Now, I guess, we're supposed to start thinking that Mitt Romney as a great feminist ally. In this week's debate, he tried to cover up his actual positions on everything from reproductive rights to women in the workplace in a desperate attempt to convince voters that he actually cares about women's lives. Although some of it came across as less than convincing -- think "binders full of women" -- the amount of outright lies he packed into the debate was impressive.
My rule of thumb is whenever Romney changes his positions and tries to sound reasonable, I think about what his Supreme Court would do. With many issues, the damage a Romney presidency would do in four years is eclipsed by the damage a Romney Court would do in 40. Women's rights are no exception. Let's break it down.
Asked about equal pay for equal work, Romney went into a bizarre, now famous rant about how he demanded "binders full of women" to fill jobs in his administration in Massachusetts. The story was not only strange and condescending, but also turned out to be a lie. He also boasted of providing flexible work hours to his chief-of-staff, a woman who wanted to be home in time to cook dinner for her family. It's admirable that Romney provided her with the flexibility that she wanted, but it's stunningly old-fashioned that he assumes all women in the workplace would have the same needs and that men are apparently exempt from such responsibilities.
Here's the reality of Romney's position on workplace inequality. His campaign has never been able to give a straight answer on whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which ensures that women can sue their employers for pay discrimination. And he's promised to appoint Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, whose decision denying Ledbetter the right to sue her employer for decades of pay discrimination made the Ledbetter Act necessary in the first place. So look to the Court and you know where Romney comes out on fair pay for women.
Then there's the issue of reproductive rights. In the debate, Romney claimed:
I'd just note that I don't believe that bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not. And I don't believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not. Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives.
Immediately after the debate, he released an ad doubling down on his supposedly pro-choice position. Again, nothing more than out and out lies. Here are the facts: Romney supported a House measure that would have allowed employers to decide whether their employees had contraception care. He has promised to toss out the Obama administration policy requiring insurance companies to provide contraception without co-pay, ensuring that all women have access to birth control regardless of their means. And, in a Republican debate he said that he would be : delighted: to sign a bill banning all abortions.
But, like with pay discrimination, where Romney could do the most lasting harm to reproductive rights is through his Supreme Court appointments. He has explicitly said that he would appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade -- an event that could lead to abortion being banned in vast swaths of the country. He has said that the Constitution doesn't guarantee a right to privacy -- the basis for Roe and for Griswold v. Connecticut, the decision that said states could no longer criminalize the use of contraception. Romney's model justices -- Scalia, Thomas and Alito -- have all indicated that they think Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. It is not liberal hyperbole to say that a court dominated by their thinking would eagerly eliminate the protections of Roe.
Whenever Romney tries to lie about his agenda, just remember the Supreme Court. Romney has consistently promised right-wing ideologues that he will appoint more of their own to the Supreme Court, and named the infamous Robert Bork as his judicial adviser as a down-payment on that promise. Romney's dangerous agenda, whatever it is, would last for four years. His right-wing Supreme Court could last for forty years. That's a scary thought for anyone who cares about the rights of women.