Gender issues remains at center of U.S. Senate race with debate over women's health care

07/15/2014 04:04 PM

The issues of gender equality and women’s rights are being used by Democrats in the Kentucky U.S. Senate race to illustrate the disconnect between Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and women voters as a pro-choice group begins to run ads in the state and a big name McConnell foe criticizes his stances.

NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC, a group which has endorsed Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes and called her a “pro-choice champion”, released an ad Tuesday to run statewide in Kentucky for a week.

The group says the 30-second ad, titled “Mitch McConnell Will Never Do the Right Thing for Kentucky Women”, is running in advance of a vote in the U.S. Senate aimed at restoring the contraceptive coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act.

That legislation comes after the U.S. Supreme sided with Hobby Lobby in a case which sought to exclude companies with religious owners from complying with the health care law’s requirement that they provide all Food and Drug Administration-approved forms of birth control in their health plans. Hobby Lobby still does provide 16 of 20 types of contraceptives approved by the FDA, the case pertained to providing four drugs that could induce abortions.

The Pro-Choice America ad uses video from a McConnell video with an announcer saying: “he thinks it is fine to pay women less and then take away insurance for birth control so they have more out of pocket expenses.”

See the ad here:

In response to that ad, the McConnell campaign said in a statement that if Kentuckians want to know who Grimes would represent if elected they have to look no further than the “radical abortion groups” coming to her aide.

“The fact that Alison Lundergan Grimes cannot even support Sen. McConnell’s common-sense efforts to curb late-term abortions shows Kentuckians that her agenda aligns with President Obama and extreme pro-abortion groups in Washington,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement.

On their website, Pro-Choice America has posted a photo of Grimes with a pro-choice quote that reads: “When it comes to choice, I believe, should a woman have to make that decision, it’s between herself, her doctor, and her God.”

The Grimes campaign did not immediately respond to a question about the quote or an updated statement of Grimes’ stance on the issue.

Meanwhile, McConnell used a speech on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday to discuss women’s health care needs and what he says are the negative effects the Affordable Care Act is having on women.

In the speech, McConnell said he is hearing from businesses and constituents across Kentucky about the trouble they are having coping with higher costs under the law.

The Senate Republican leader said he had recently heard from a woman in Somerset who worked for a large company where the law is hurting her pay.

“‘This is causing us to lose up to eleven hours per week averaging $440.00 per month…[less] in wages. Obamacare [is] causing us to lose hours [and] lose wages, yet expecting us to spend more.’ Let me just repeat that. She says Obamacare is causing her to lose hundreds of dollars a month in lost wages. But at the same time, Obamacare is causing health care costs to skyrocket for many Americans,” McConnell said. “It’s not right.”

But McConnell’s Senate counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is not convinced by McConnell’s defense of women’s issues.

Citing a question session with locals in Buckner, Kentucky last week, Reid said McConnell’s views on gender equity discussed in the meeting were “shocking”.

According to the audio recording of the Buckner event, McConnell told a small group that he believed most of the barriers for women “had been lowered” and that he felt women voters would be looking at the same issues as men during the election.

McConnell added he expected Grimes to bring gender issues into the race and said: “I don’t think that kind of agenda exploitation for political purposes makes any sense.”

Reid, who has fundraised with and come to the aide of Grimes, said McConnell’s remarks were way off base.

“The Republican leader suggested the notion of ensuring the rights for American women is tantamount to preferential treatment. That was his opinion. That’s as shocking as it is troubling,” Reid said Tuesday.

The Grimes campaign has also sent the sought to use the remarks against McConnell by releasing a statement last week that said the comments illustrate that McConnell is out of touch with women.

“Finally, Mitch McConnell confesses to why he voted against equal pay for equal work for women — he doesn’t think a pay gap is a barrier worth lowering,” Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst said in the statement. “Unlike Mitch McConnell, Alison wants to remove all barriers for women, not just settle for claiming most are lowered.”

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.

TWEETS ABOUT KENTUCKY POLITICS