McCain and Working Moms

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In an earlier post, I wrote about Sarah Palin and working moms: her effect on them both personally and politically. But I was being short-sighted. Because no matter how positively or negatively Palin impacts working moms, what really matters is John McCain.

At first you might think that John McCain is all about the working mom: after all, he asked Palin to be his running mate, didn’t he? But we have to look beyond that to what his policies say about how his presidency would impact the life of the American working mother. And I’m sorry to say, folks, but I don’t think the impact would be as positive as his choice of Palin makes it look like it would be.

First of all, almost every working mom wishes she had more time to be at home with her kids–or, barring that, that her husband had more time to be at home with the kids. Under a McCain administration, that wish might well be granted, but not because the workplace suddenly has more flexibility and understanding about the parenting role. No, she or her husband (or both, God forbid) might end up with more time with the kids because–what do you think I’m going to say?–they lose their jobs!

When McCain criticizes Obama for wanting to spread the wealth around, what he is also saying–and for some reason, few commentators point this out–is that he doesn’t want to spread the wealth around. That means business as usual: more tax breaks to businesses and those in the upper 10% of the wage-earning economy. Less tax breaks–in comparison and proportion–to the middle class. Less money for entitlement programs (Social Security, etc.). More corporate welfare and less citizen welfare. And if giving those who make $250,000 and up tax breaks is the way to create jobs, then why is unemployment in this country at an all-time high?

Secondly, McCain hasn’t said a word about workplace flexibility, affordable and quality child care, or paid and guaranteed maternity and paternity leave–and he’s not going to, because he wants what is good for businesses (or what he thinks is good for businesses) which is not requiring them to spend any more money than they already do on their labor forces.

Thirdly, McCain’s health care plan is going to burden women unequally, because they disproportionately work in the so-called service industries, which are notoriously underpaid and lacking in benefits. That means that even with a $5000 health tax credit, the average working mom is going to have to go shopping for her health care elsewhere and hope that she can find an insurer that won’t gouge her for her coverage. And the single working mother will have to get the most expensive health care, because she has to insure a whole family, even though there is no husband to share the benefits–and the cost. Getting inexpensive health care is not a viable option because that means high deductibles, putting working moms at even more of an economic disadvantage.

Fourthly, McCain is completely against Roe v. Wade. That means that he will do all that he can to take away your decision-making power when it comes to your own body. He himself, during the last debate, mocked the notion of a woman’s health as being reason enough for abortion. Anything less than life or death, he implied, is not grounds for an abortion. It’s not clear whether he agrees with Palin that abortion should not even be granted for instances of rape and incest, but he hasn’t said that he doesn’t agree with her on that. He wants to make it illegal to get an abortion and has made it clear that he has no patience with doctors’ recommendations for one unless the mother-to-be is going to die.

And in case you haven’t been noticing, there has been a lot of noise lately about making it illegal to fire or not hire someone as a health worker, doctor, or pharmacist who is against dispensing or providing anything that has to do with an abortion, however indirectly, and that many groups are pushing for commonly-used birth control methods to be classified as abortificants. This means that your doctor or pharmacist could refuse to prescribe or dispense birth control pills. An anesthesiologist could refuse to anesthetize you for an abortion. A nurse could refuse to provide care to a woman who is having an abortion. And none of these people could be fired for not doing their jobs! (See my post on Protecting Anti-Abortionists’ Rights.)

No one is asking McCain tough questions about these issues, but just judging by his position on Roe v. Wade and his smirks about women’s health, I’m guessing that he would be sympathetic if not supportive of these developments.

What does this mean for the working mom? Let’s say you accidentally get pregnant. It does happen, and it will happen more frequently if certain forms of birth control are outlawed, or you can’t get your pills or diaphragm or IUD in time. You already have as many kids as you can afford. You’re maxed out when it comes to day care. You can’t afford to take off any time to have the baby, because you get little or no maternity leave. But, under a McCain administration, you would have to have that baby! You would have no choice.

Of course, you could always have the baby and give it up for adoption…

Thanks a lot, President McCain.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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