President Bill Clinton on women's issues
On the issue of some women’s issues, like abortion, the contrast between Democratic President Bill Clinton and his Republican opponent, Senator Bob Dole could not have been more stark.
Clinton was a staunch supporter of a women’s right to choose throughout his time in the White House. On January 23, 1993, anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Clinton’s third day in office, the new president ended several abortion laws that were hold-overs from the Reagan era.
These included a five-year ban on fetal tissue research, a restriction on abortion counseling at federally funded family planning centers, the prohibition of the emergency contraceptive RU-486 (pending FDA approval), the ban on privately funded abortions at overseas military hospitals, and a 1984 order prohibiting U.S. federal aid to overseas organizations that provide abortions.
he first major piece of legislation that President Bill Clinton signed into law was the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allowed workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid work leave to care for a new child or sick family member.
The Bush administration before him has vetoed this same bill on two occasions. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violence Against Women Act, the first major federal effort to combat domestic violence and other violence targeted against women.
In 1996, the Clinton administration also passed the first minimum wage increase in over 6 years. Since women remains underpaid compared to men in the same positions, this was paramount among women’s issues at the time. He also passed a law extending the amount of time a mother and her newborn could stay in the hospital after birth.
In 1997 (notably, after his electoral victory over Senator Bob Dole), the Clinton Administration created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), the greatest expansion in children’s healthcare since Medicaid was first enacted in 1965. In 1998, they doubled funding for Head Start and childcare subsidies.
And while a major political defeat at the time, the Clinton’s Administration’s so-called “Hillary-care” laid the groundwork for future movement on universal healthcare. Not all of Clinton’s legislative efforts were hailed as victories by liberals.
His 1996 welfare reform bill was seen by some on the left as a concession to the Republican-controlled Congress. Many liberals saw aspects of the bill, such as its stricter work requirements, as too draconian.
Nevertheless, women voters concerned about a safety net for them and their families chose Clinton over Dole by a large margin.
The record on these issues was clear; President Bill Clinton vetoed budgets pushed by Senator Bob Dole and other conservatives that would have cut student loans, Head Start, Americorps, scholarships, Medicare, and national healthcare services for pregnant women, children, and the elderly.
Perhaps in a time of more economic tumult such cuts might have been seen as pragmatic, but in this time of economic prosperity, more women voters saw them as harsh and unnecessary.
In the end, Clinton’s stance on women’s issues carried him to the largest winning margin of women voters of any president, until the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.