An Open Letter to Ann Romney: Stop Misleading Women

An Open Letter to Ann Romney: Stop Misleading Women

Dear Mrs. Romney,

I’ve got a story for you.

In 1999, I went on a family trip to Costa Rica. My in-laws rented a rustic open-air house on a mountainside overlooking the Pacific. On our first day, the property’s caretaker brought us a large bunch of bananas and hung them from a hook on the side of the house. One afternoon, as a few of us sat on the deck enjoying the view, an adorable capuchin monkey came down from the trees and began prancing around on the railing. As we swooned over this sweet creature, enjoying her delightful personality, we didn’t realize that her partner was nearby stealing our fruit. She was distracting us with her charm and it was all a big ploy.

Mrs. Romney, you may be wondering what my vacation anecdote has to do with you? Actually, everything.

A week ago, I read how you reached out to some Florida voters about your struggle with Multiple Sclerosis, specifically to a woman you met in a Fort Lauderdale restaurant who is battling the same disease. You told her how you began to lose your coordination and other details of your illness. I’m sure she felt a real connection to you.

In September, you spoke about your experiences with MS and breast cancer at a rally in Largo, Florida, while a “WOMEN FOR MITT” banner hung behind you. You told the cheering (predominantly female) crowd that there were times you were out of hope and your husband stood by you in your "darkest hour.”  

Similar stories came out this summer. During your interview with Gloria Borger of CNN, you told her how Mitt curled up with you in bed when you were terrified about your health, reassuring you that everything would be okay.  

And who could forget how you embraced female voters at the Republican National Convention with the memorable line, “I love you women!”

Mrs. Romney, I have a few questions for you.

When you first noticed something was wrong, before your MS diagnosis in 1998, how many nights did you lay in bed wondering where you’d get medical care?

When your husband held you in bed as you described, did you wonder whether or not you’d have access to top doctors and specialists?

Did you ever worry that radiation treatments, surgery, and neurologist visits might cause you to hit your lifetime maximum and your medical costs might suddenly be something you could no longer afford?

Did you worry what would become of your kids if you didn’t make it?

Were you stressed about how you’d work during treatment or how you’d make ends meet?

I didn’t think so.

Mrs. Romney, your husband has vowed to take actions that will screw women nationwide. And by wooing female voters with your personal health history, and providing details about your husband’s unwavering support, you (as a contrived symbol for all undecided women) are misleading voters and misrepresenting your spouse. If elected, he plans to rip rights away from women after you’ve lured us in with heartfelt tales from your past.   

The Affordable Care Act, which your husband has promised to repeal on day one, prevents women from being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions like pregnancy. The new laws also ensure women can get mammograms and cancer screening with no co-pay. I know it’s hard to imagine, Mrs. Romney, but $25 or $50 is a lot of money to many women. It may mean the choice between food and bills.

Without the new health care legislation protecting their families, countless mothers will be faced with what to do for a child requiring expensive, life-saving surgeries. With no laws to stop insurance companies from imposing a lifetime cap, many parents will lose everything trying to afford care for their kids. Or worse, they will lose their kids. Can you imagine, as a mother of five and grandmother of eighteen, not being able to afford to save your child’s life?

Your husband has sworn (more than once) that he’ll do away with funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that performs nearly 770,000 Pap tests a year and nearly 750,000 breast exams. One in five American women have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic at least once in their life. Aside from helping millions of women prevent unintended pregnancies, and preventing abortions, for many women in rural areas, a Planned Parenthood clinic is their only lifeline to preventative screenings for life-threatening diseases. Many of these women are mothers living in poverty, Mrs. Romney. These are moms who love their kids just as much as you love Tagg, Matt, Josh, Ben, and Craig. And these kids need their moms around just like your kids needed you when they were two, three and four years old.

 

And regarding abortion, I get that many people’s faiths make abortion an unacceptable choice. No one, Democrat or Republican, wants women to have unwanted pregnancies or any reason for seeking abortions. But if your husband is elected, and he supports a reversal of Roe v. Wade, or even just the continued limitations to access to abortion, women will die. Women, particularly those without the economic means to raise a child, will revert to the methods used before 1973 to end their pregnancies. They will douche with bleach, they will use coat hangers, they will ingest drugs, they will seek out procedures in unsanitary, unregulated, clinics in our country and in Mexico.

The continued restrictions on women’s right to choose won’t end unwanted pregnancies. It. Will. End. Lives. Lives of teenagers, lives of impoverished women, lives of women who want the rights fought for and won by their own mothers over forty years ago.

I know this election is “all about jobs,” and your husband says over and over how concerned he is about women. But don’t you see how this all connects? How can a woman hold down a job if she has a debilitating disease and no health insurance? How can low-income mothers go to work if their kids are chronically sick? How can women become financially stable when lack of access to contraception results in children they can’t afford? How can you tell women you “love” them and then encourage them to vote for someone who will strip them of their choices?

Your battle with and recovery from multiple sclerosis and breast cancer are admirable. But please stop using your personal bedtime stories as an example of how Mitt Romney will be there for women. That lady you spoke to in the Fort Lauderdale restaurant just might lose her health care benefits if your husband is elected and does what he has promised to do. Yet you didn’t hesitate to look her in the eye and show compassion.

Mrs. Romney, with all due respect, you are no different then that endearing little monkey, distracting us and distorting our perceptions of what is really going on. Your husband wants something from us, and he’s hoping he can snatch it before we even know what happened. 

Jessica Clancy

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