In recent weeks leading up to the presidential election, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have been trying to gain support from women voters. While both candidates float the same general statements about increasing opportunities and support for women in the workforce, Romney’s record reveals a deep opposition to increased women’s rights in many ways.

If Romney becomes president, women can expect dramatic changes to the way the federal government addresses their welfare and personal concerns. The two major party platforms offer deviating paths from the general progression of women’s rights in this country. If Romney enters the oval office, numerous landmark government decisions which expanded the rights of women will be swept away.

Romney’s extremely conservative stance on women’s rights explains why he rarely addresses the topic in speeches or debates, and this has conveniently contributed to a lack of voter awareness. In a year when political rhetoric centers on economic issues, Romney’s views have not had a great impact on the campaign.

Rosa Reyes, ’16, is an independent voter who feels that she has not been “exposed to Mr. Romney’s views on this issue a lot.” However, she added that gender equality and women’s rights are “not a major factor” to her in this election. Because the economy is first and foremost in everyone’s mind this year, Romney has not had to defend many of his statements regarding women’s rights.

The official Romney campaign website tells a different story.  The page entitled “Values” is peppered with extreme assertions — such as a plan to “end federal funding to abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood.”

[blockquote author=”Marie Diamond, Think Progress Organization” pull=”pullleft”]Romney said he would expand a Bush-era rule that allows doctors to deny women access to contraceptives[/blockquote]

In typical GOP form, Romney turns aside the millions of women throughout the nation who depend on Planned Parenthood for mammograms, family planning counseling, contraceptives, and basic prenatal care. Despite the plethora of vital services this organization offers to U.S. women, Romney still aims to write it off simply because it offers abortions. It is also worth noting that the federal funding supplied to Planned Parenthood does not actually go toward abortions. Romney’s rhetoric goes even further, calling the organization an “advocate” of this practice.

“Romney said he would expand a Bush-era rule that allows doctors to deny women access to contraceptives,” said Marie Diamond of Think Progress Organization reports. As president, Romney seeks to end a woman’s right to make her own decisions regarding pregnancy.

Romney also seems hesitant to advocate for true gender equality and opportunity in the workforce. In the second presidential debate, he said, “If you’re going to have women in the workforce, then sometimes they need to be more flexible.” Romney effectively insinuates that female employees are inherently more difficult to work with than male employees. While this may fit with the governor’s primeval opinion of women as the “domestic mavens” of the 1950’s, it fails to acknowledge the changing role of women in society. In many families, wives and mothers are the primary breadwinners. Romney’s views are simply out of sync with this progression and era.

The regressive view of women’s rights described by the Romney campaign would have far-reaching, negative effects on society. Denying low and middle income women basic healthcare would place increased financial strain on single women and families across the country. This financial strain could cause stagnation in the growth of the economy. Also, decreasing contraceptive options for women would lead to more unwanted pregnancies, which could have numerous negative consequences for the nation.

Gender equality is an important issue in the coming presidential election. While economic policy is important during a time of recession, we as citizens cannot forgo all other issues when electing the next president of our country. All voters should be aware of the candidates’ stances on gender equality — as fair social policy is crucial to the vitality of the U.S. Regardless of whom you vote for, do understand that Mitt Romney is not an advocate for women’s rights, and will aim to enforce his conservative views upon all female citizens.