We asked the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies, or IWES, about coalition building in our current political moment and about what’s at stake in this election. This is part one of their response.

women ethnic studies

What is at stake for women of color in this election?

Health care, access to care- The issue of health care is a huge one for women of color in this election:

  • 1 in 5 women, ages 18 to 64 are uninsured- that’s approximately 19 million women (Kaiser 2012); 1 in 4 non-elderly women has gone without or delayed needed care because they could not afford the costs (Kaiser 2011); Half of US births are paid for by Medicaid (Kaiser 2012)
  • Even though women have long life expectancies, women suffer from chronic disease and disability at higher rates than men (IOM, 2011)
  • Uninsured individuals are more likely to have inadequate access to care, get a lower standard of care when they are in the health system, and have poorer health outcomes (Kaiser 2012)
  • Obtaining insurance is often difficult for women because their employer may not offer insurance benefits or they are part-time; pre-existing conditions and gender rating (Kaiser 2012)

The issue of health care is a huge one for women of color in this election

ACA/Medicaid Expansion/Health Insurance Reforms

  • Very different viewpoints between the presidential candidates- President Obama’s ACA legislation is set to begin in 2014, while Romney believes health care reform is a state’s issue and would offer opt-out waivers to state’s and eventually repeal Obama’s ACA legislation
  • ACA/Medicaid Expansion would require insurance through medicaid, private insurance, or state health insurance exchanges that includes coverage for doctor visits, hospitalization, preventive screenings and wellness services, contraceptives, prenatal and maternity care and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse disorder services, and prescription drugs- all of which are services for women that have not been uniformly covered by individual plans in the past.
  • ACA would also require coverage of domestic violence screening, breastfeeding supports and HIV and STI screenings
  • ACA would also ban gender rating and pre-existing condition exclusions.

Threats to Family Planning/Comprehensive Reproductive Health Care

  • Access to preventive screenings and contraceptive choice is at stake
  • Federal and state programs, including Medicaid and Title X, provide funding so that low-income women can access contraceptives and family planning services. There has been much debate over this between parties
  • Some in Congress have called for the elimination of the Title X program- particularly at clinics that also provide abortion services
  • Lack of community clinics that serve women’s primary health care needs

Women’s Rights- Reproductive rights/freedoms

  • The candidates have very different positions on reproductive health, including financing and access to abortion and contraceptive services.
  • Pres. Obama upholds Roe v. Wade, while Gov. Romney has stated that it should be overturned and abortion policy should be state regulated. Pres. Obama’s ACA also broadens coverage of family planning and Reproductive health services, and offers contraceptive choice for women.
  • Gov. Romney would repeal ACA, which offers broader and more comprehensive reproductive health care and family planning services/contraceptive choice. He has also said that he would eliminate the Title X program, which provides family planning services to low-income women. He would also ban any federal funding from being granted to groups that provide abortions with private funds, groups which also provide additional family planning and reproductive health care services.

Environmental Concerns

  • Divestment in natural sources of energy, global warming
  • Environmental concerns (cuts in funding for green jobs, green job training, and green energy

  • Cuts to Federal assistance programs

    • Food
    • Childcare
    • Housing
    • Medicaid


    • Financial Aid
    • Access to Quality Education

    State Control

    • Withdrawal of federal govt. benefits- Pushing power to states is dangerous when states are controlled by conservative, Republican bodies/governors that reject federal assistance, ACA, and are making major cuts to healthcare and education

    Victimization of women- “legitimate rape” debate
    Affordable childcare
    Economics/Jobs: Equitable Pay
    Immigration issues- self-deportation
    Disaster relief

    Are there any particular challenges in mobilizing women of color to get to the polls?

    • Transportation
    • Child care
    • Apathy- feeling disenfranchised (“vote doesn’t count)
    • Living in a state dominated by a particular political party; feeling that your vote doesn’t matter
    • Shame/lack of recognition in the mainstream narrative
    • Work schedule- hourly, no time off/loss or pay
    • Lack of knowledge about what’s at stake for women of color

    Does this specific election pose any unique challenges?

    • Race
    • Socioeconomic status
    • Voter suppression/intimidation tactics
    • Immigration issues- Latino population concerns regarding voting, such as apprehension about belonging or feeling that others may not feel that they should be allowed to vote
    • Apathy towards voting
    • Re-election disenchantment- disappointment in the current President’s ability to “fix” the problems
    • Delusion- overly confident that their candidate will win and doesn’t need their vote, belief that the base is strong (2008 campaign)
    • Hurricane Sandy – amplified challenges for women of color by disaster- i.e transportation, homelessness, prioritizing recovery and survival needs
    • Media- terrible comments in the media regarding women, “47%ers”

    You can read more about IWES on their website. They are a national nonprofit community based organization headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, which was founded in 1993 in response to overwhelming health disparities among women of color. IWES is dedicated to improving the physical, mental, and spiritual health and quality of life for women of color and their families, especially those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged.