President Barack Obama, looking to solidify his electoral advantage among female voters, touted his administration's record during a forum on women and the economy Friday.
The president drew applause after declaring that women aren't some monolithic bloc or an interest group. Still, he detailed administration policies that have benefited women, pointing to to the Lilly Bedletter Fair Pay Act, a 2009 law that seeks to ensure women are paid the same as men. It was the first law Obama signed.
These issues are more than just a matter of policy, the president said. And when we talk about these issues that primarily impact women, we've got to realize they are not just women's issues -- they are family issues, they are economic issues, they are growth issues, they are issues about American competitiveness.
Despite the conventional wisdom that the 2012 election would revolve around the economy, women's issues have come to the fore. Republicans seized on a provision in Obama's health care overhaul requiring all employers, including religious institutions such as Catholic schools and hospitals, to provide employees with insurance that includes contraceptive coverage.
Republicans charge that the requirement infringes on religious liberty, while Democrats counter that the other party neglects women's health. The issue produced a heated congressional hearing, led Republican presidential candidates to rally behind a religious freedom argument and produced a firestorm when radio host Rush Limbaugh crudely denounced a Georgetown law student who had publicly called for contraceptive coverage.
Afterward, Obama phoned the student, Sandra Fluke. But the political uproar continued, with Republican National Committee's chairman, Reince Priebus, likening Democrats' warnings of a war on women to a nonexistent war on caterpillars.
There's been a lot of talk about women and women's issues lately, as there should be, Obama said at Friday's forum.
He cautioned that if a Republican president repeals his health care law, as the Republican presidential candidates have vowed to do, 1 million young women will lose insurance coverage. He criticized Republican plans to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood, a goal that has spurred clashes between the administration and Republican-majority states.
Strong support from women helped fuel Obama's victory in 2008, and polls have shown him expanding that support this year. According to a recently released Gallup poll, Obama holds a sizable advantage over Republican front-runner Mitt Romney among female voters in a dozen swing states.