Wherefore the Gender Gap?

SandersClintonA Fox poll released August 3, shows a remarkable gender gap among Hillary Clinton supporters. 60% of women who say they will vote in the Democratic primary prefer Clinton over her closest competitor Bernie Sanders who garners a mere 16% of the female vote. By contrast 38% of Democratic men support Clinton’s candidacy and 32% support Sanders. What’s interesting about this is that Sanders is stronger than Clinton on the issues that women say matter most to them.  This became obvious in their different responses to a secretly filmed and deceptively edited video of Planned Parenthood representatives that falsely purports to show them plotting to profit from abortions.

Non-profit Planned Parenthood provides essential gynecological and obstetrics services. It distributes fetal tissue remaining from abortions to stem cell researchers who have used this material to make remarkable medical breakthroughs estimated to save many thousands of lives every year. Under the law, Planned Parenthood may not profit from selling the remains of abortions but may charge researchers to help defray expenses. There are no credible allegations that Planned Parenthood has violated this requirement in any way.

Yet, upon the video’s release in July, Republican Ted Cruz attacked it as a “national criminal enterprise” and fellow GOPer Rand Paul called for Clinton to return contributions she had received from people connected to the pro-choice family planning organization. In reply, Clinton told the conservative New Hampshire Union-Leader that she too found the video “disturbing”.

Even though Planned Parenthood is legally barred from using and does not in fact use any federal money to pay for abortion services, Republican House anti-choice extremists Joni Ernst and James Lankford immediately introduced legislation to cut off all federal funding to the organization. In reply, Clinton would only say that any Congressional inquiry should include other groups as well.

Clinton responded feebly to dishonest partisan attacks on a critically important healthcare organization.  By contrast, Bernie Sanders mostly rose to its defense. In fairness, he wasn’t faultless. In the immediate aftermath of the video’s release, Sanders, to his discredit, called the “tone of a Planned Parenthood executive”, who was discussing fetal tissue donation program, “terribly wrong”.

But his answer to Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood was pitch perfect. Rather than suggest that other groups should also be targeted, on Wednesday July 29, Sanders trained his sights directly on Republican extremists:

The attempt by Senate Republicans to cut off support for Planned Parenthood is an attack on women’s health,” Sanders said in a statement. “The current attempt to discredit Planned Parenthood is part of a long-term smear campaign by people who want to deny women in this country the right to control their own bodies.

Unlike Clinton, Sanders correctly reframed the issue from the phony one manufactured by a shadowy misogynist group to an attack on the actions and motivations of Republican politicians. A day after Sanders attacked Senate Republicans, Clinton issued a less straighforward defense of funding for reproductive health services – one that did not include mention of the pro-choice organization. “It’s another effort by the Republicans to try to limit the health-care options for women and we should not let them succeed once again”, she said.

A 2012 Gallup poll conducted in swing states found that women thought abortion was by far the most important issue for them in that year’s Presidential election. In that same poll, men did not list abortion as one of the 10 most important issues for them. Unlike men, most women are pro-choice. Women also prioritize healthcare more highly than men do. Based on their responses to a conservative-attack on long-time women’s healthcare champion Planned Parenthood, it seems clear that Bernie Sanders’ values are closer to those of most women than Hillary Clinton’s.

In May, American women said they favor Hillary Clinton by a wide margin over every other candidate. Will disparate reactions to a secretly filmed video, produced and deceptively edited by right-wing provocateurs, change this dynamic?

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  1. Pingback: Mind the Gap | Halitics

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