Women for Udall talk priorities — health care and voter mobilization

A group of female business owners joined Congresswoman Diana DeGette and Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards at local woman-owned restaurant Fire on the Mountain in Denver today. 

The group engaged the idea of “women’s issues” in the election — expanding the term not just to include reproductive rights but health care in general, equal pay, raising the minimum wage and getting more women on the Supreme Court.

Both DeGette and Richards stumped for Udall, calling him an ally and an “honorary woman” in the Senate.

Richards reminded the women in the room that they have just 60 days to mobilize female voters, who don’t typically turn out as well for midterms, before the election between Republican Congressman Cory Gardner and incumbent Democrat Mark Udall. That race has focused almost exclusively on two topics: Gardner’s stance on personhood and Udall’s vote for the Affordable Care Act. Richards hit both head on.

She called the ACA an imperfect law, but a major win for women and something female voters have every reason to support. Richards emphasized that under the new health care law insurance companies are prohibited from basing their rates on gender — which used to result in higher premiums for women; from denying anyone care for a pre-exising condition — a definition that sometimes included being pregnant or having had a cesarean; and from charging a copay for women’s preventative health care from birth control to mammograms.

“Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition in America and that’s because of the Affordable Care Act,” Richards said. “Mark Udall was there every step of the way to fight for it.

The group discussed Cory Gardner’s plan to make the birth control pill available over the counter. Many women in the room questioned the safety of buying “the pill” off a drugstore shelf, noting that finding the right contraception is a lot more complicated — and with elevated risks for stroke and heart attack for older women, a lot more dangerous — than grabbing a pack of Trojans.

“I think it’s irresponsible and really ignorant of Gardner to be saying over the counter. Women can’t just take this medication with out a doctor’s advice,” said Margaret Atencio, retired and a volunteer with the Colorado Democratic Party. 

Though Richards said Planned Parenthood would be interested in getting FDA approval for an over-the-counter option, she agreed that Gardner’s plan has some serious problems. Chief among them: cost.

“In 2013 women in America saved 483 million dollars on birth control alone because of the ACA benefits,” said Richard. “Basically what Cory Gardner is saying to those women is now you’re going to pay for it again.”

Richards also slammed Gardner for continuing to co-sponsor a federal personhood bill and particularly for voting to defund Planned Parenthood almost as soon as he was first elected to congress.

“To me it’s clear Cory Gardner’s worried, he has to muddy the issues because if women know his record they won’t vote for him,” Richards said.

Ellen Daehnick, the owner of Helliemae’s Caramels and a member of the Colorado Connect for Health board echoed that sentiment.

“I’m registered as an Independent. I’m from Texas. I’m a small business owner. I have strong redneck streak, I can’t deny that… but I end up in the Democratic camp 99.9% of the time because even though I agree with candidates on the Republican side, and Rep. Cory Gardner is a good example, on many business issues, because he sees me as less than a fully formed person able to control my own body, I can’t get onboard.  I can’t exercise economic benefits if I can’t control my own healthcare decisions.”

[DeGette at Women for Udall roundtable. Image by Tessa Cheek.]