Quite simply, women’s health is at stake in this election. Not maybe, not possibly — it is. We will either elect a president who wants to promote women’s health or a president who wants to take us all back to the 19th century. Right now, we are all learning (again) that who we elect at the state and federal levels affects our economy (and that of the world) for years. Similarly, who we elect also affects the health of your partner, your friends, your relatives and, of course, you.

In the final presidential debate, Barack Obama said what many of us know from our own personal experience — there are some issues that are so contentious and that people feel so strongly about that nothing short of a miracle (or tragedy) will shift their opinion. For many people, abortion is one of those issues, which is why voting for pro-choice state and presidential candidates is crucial.

John McCain doesn’t support equal pay for women and continues to support abstinence-only sex education programs, despite research showing they are ineffective and dangerous. He voted against requiring insurers to cover a range of contraceptive options. He has also voted against the federal family planning program and against expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health care to low-income children. Furthermore, McCain and Sarah Palin have both stated repeatedly they want to overturn Roe v. Wade. We know from multiple data sources, including studies by the Guttmacher Institute, that outlawing abortion does not decrease its incidence, but it does increase the number of women who die from abortions. McCain and Palin maintain this position despite the fact that the majority of people in this country support maintaining access to safe and legal abortion.

McCain claims Obama’s and pro-choice advocates’ emphasis on comprehensive sex education, expanded health coverage and recognition of the myriad factors that go into decisions to start a family is “extreme.” Here is an extreme scenario: What would happen if you, your friend, a relative or your daughter was raped and became pregnant? If McCain and Palin have their way, there would be no discussion about it. The woman would have the child.

Many people recognize that McCain and Palin are extreme in these views, not Obama. So, hundreds of thousands of people, both women and men, spoke up to protect the health of women and families. They responded to an anonymous e-mail and, in just one month, donated more than $1 million dollars to Planned Parenthood “in honor” of Palin. Those supporters, many who had never donated before, realize that Planned Parenthood’s work — 97 percent of which is preventive health care — is doing more to prevent abortion and protect women’s health than that of people who think the “solution” is to not talk about the tough questions and simply outlaw abortion.

Why do McCain and Palin think the government should determine my future childbearing? Despite their opposition to SCHIP, equal pay laws for women and programs like Medicare that help women stay healthy, McCain and Palin want us to believe that they care about the health of women and their families? They have a dangerous way of showing it.

Voting for Obama shows that we understand women’s health is no laughing matter.

Zakiya Luna is a doctoral student in Sociology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is also earning her Master’s of Social Work.

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