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Tonight, President Obama and Mitt Romney will join one another on stage for the first of three presidential debates.  The topic?  Domestic policy.

The debate will be broken down into a number of sections, including three on jobs and the economy, one on health care, another on the role of government, and the last on governing.

While you can expect to hear a lot about jobs and the economy, it’s important to remember women’s health issues are economic issues.  While you may hear Romney discuss his belief that government shouldn’t be involved in health care, it’s important to remember this belief doesn’t stop him from trying to regulate women’s health and rights. 

Over the course of the campaign Mitt Romney has tried to duck the questions and hide his agenda until after the election, and tonight’s debate may be more of the same.  That’s why we’ve pulled together a brief round-up of the important facts you need to know about where the candidates stand. 

-       Women’s Health issues are economic issues

Romney wants to separate health care from economic concerns, but that’s not the reality for women across America.  The cost of birth control (which can be up to $600 dollars a year) is the equivalent of five weeks of groceries, nine tanks of gas in a minivan, or even one semester of college textbooks.  Because of the high cost of birth control, 34 percent of women voters have struggled to afford it and therefore used it inconsistently.  Furthermore, birth control has helped close the gender wage gap — researchers found the pill accounted for 10 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap in the 1980s.  Since birth control became available, women have been able to invest in their careers and pursue an education.

-       Romney wants to eliminate the Title X family planning program

Title X, the nation’s family planning program, which more than five million people rely on, was signed into law by Richard Nixon and championed by President George H.W. Bush.  Romney doesn’t follow his conservative counterparts when it comes to family planning and wants to completely dismantle the program.  Not only is this harmful to the millions of women and families who benefit from the program every year, but it’s fiscally irresponsible.  Every dollar invested in federal family planning saves taxpayers and families $3.74.

-       Romney’s Promise to repeal Obamacare would undo the greatest advancement for women’s health in a generation

Already, more than 45 million women have received preventive care with no co-pay thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  Women will no longer be charged higher premiums and discriminated against, simply because of their gender, and they can no longer be denied coverage for "pre-existing conditions” like breast cancer or even pregnancy.  In addition, 3.1 million young adults have been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans; more than 30 million Americans who would be otherwise uninsured stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act; and 12.8 million women of reproductive age will gain access to insurance coverage.

-       Romney would restrict a woman’s right to make personal, private decisions about her own health

Every woman should have access to the full range of reproductive health care services, including access to safe and legal abortion, but Mitt Romney doesn’t think so. Romney called Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history” and said he wants the decision to be overturned, ending safe and legal abortion. He also has openly supported "personhood" measures, which could not only ban abortion with no exceptions, but it could also outlaw forms of birth control. Decisions about whether to end a pregnancy or adopt a child are personal and private decisions, best left up to a woman in consultation with her family, her faith and doctor — not by politicians.

-       President Obama understands the health and economic challenges women face — and has fought to address them

The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — to protect women’s right to receive equal pay for equal work.  Since then, he has stood by women, expanding health care coverage for women and families with the Affordable Care Act and ensuring access to birth control for millions of women by requiring insurance companies to provide coverage with no additional co-pays.  Obama has been a consistent advocate for women’s health and women’s rights.  When Planned Parenthood came under attack, Obama refused to give in to the demands of out-of-touch politicians and made sure Planned Parenthood could continue providing care to the nearly three million patients it sees each year.

When it comes to issues that directly affect women’s health, there is no comparison.  While Mitt Romney has promised to “get rid of” Planned Parenthood and end Title X, President Obama has done more for women’s health than any president in history and has stood with Planned Parenthood time and again, when it’s mattered most.  When you tune in to watch tonight’s debate, make sure you know the facts. 

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