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Each election brings its share of watershed issues and, without doubt, so does the Senate race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon. I look at the issues as a parent with grown children and a grandparent with granddaughters just making their way in the working world. I see the election as someone who has worked in the halls of Congress for both Democrats and Republicans when there were divisions in ideology, but less rancor and more cooperation.
I see the election as a woman who was the first in her family to attend college and the first in either chamber of Congress to direct a powerful Appropriations subcommittee and be paid equally with my male counterparts. Lastly, I see the election as a breast cancer survivor who knows the fear that accompanies that diagnosis and was lucky enough to have insurance to pay my bills.
I believe we stand at a crossroads for women here in Connecticut and across this country. We have achieved much in my lifetime and, because of that, we have much to lose.
It is not enough to say, "I am a woman, a pro-choice woman." Yet we've heard those words a lot lately. Viewed through my life's experiences, I can find little to prove that Linda McMahon's gender validates her commitment to women's health care, or reproductive rights. I've searched her website and can find nothing on choice, family planning, or women's health. I find only silence on these and other women's issues like equal pay.
It's not enough to say, "I provide contraceptive coverage and mammograms for my employees" and leave it at that. My background taught me to listen for what is not said as much as what is said. She makes no commitments on these issues.
The fact that she provides her employees benefits does not mean she will provide them to the thousands of women in Connecticut who will be shut out when her pledge to repeal Obamacare is realized. I am a 15-year survivor of breast cancer. Were it not for a mammogram, I might not be here today. In Connecticut, one in every eight women will have breast cancer. There is no cure. The only thing we have is early detection and Linda McMahon's position on repealing Obamacare would remove early detection as a possibility for far too many women.
When asked at the first debate if she would support Planned Parenthood, she did a two-step and never answered the question. A simple "yes" would have assuaged my concerns.
Planned Parenthood is a health care provider that serves more than 60,000 low-income women and men here in Connecticut. In addition to family planning, it provides health checkups and screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies. Abortion is not an issue in this matter, as the law already bans the use of federal funds for such a purpose. The women and men who receive their health care through Planned Parenthood have no place to go when and if the Mitt Romney/McMahon promise to repeal Obamacare is effectuated. That is until they are sick enough to show up at Mr. Romney's emergency room.
Lastly, there is the issue of reproductive rights. I have long advocated for reproductive rights. While it is certainly a woman's prerogative, in most cases, the decision when to have a child is a family decision. I thought that the issue of contraceptive use was long settled. However, Linda McMahon supports the Blunt Amendment that would permit any employer (not just a religious institution) to deny insurance coverage of any procedure for ill-defined religious or moral reasons. John Doe could deny contraception coverage or even insurance for AIDS because he believed a homosexual lifestyle to be immoral.
The Constitution guarantees our right to freely practice our religion. Nowhere does it guarantee the right to impose our religion on others. Ms. McMahon's position on this, at best, is wrong headed. At worst it is pandering.
I am a woman and I am pro-choice and an advocate for women's health. I believe that all women regardless of income should have the same health care benefits that Linda McMahon provides for her employees. For that reason, I will vote for Chris Murphy on Nov. 6.
Claudia Weicker is the former chief of staff of the subcommittee on labor, health, human services and education of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is married to former governor and senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr.