Earlier Friday, House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) looked to frame the president's comments as politically driven.
“And now, now we are going to have a fight over women’s health,” BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE said. “Give me a break. This is the latest plank in the so-called war on women. Entirely created, entirely created by my colleagues across the aisle for political gain.”
But Obama believed the issue had traction, declaring "the days of male politicians controlling the health care decisions of our wives, and our mothers, and our daughters and our sisters" needed to end.
"As long as I’m President, we are going to keep moving forward," Obama said. "You can count on that. You don’t have to take my word on it – you’ve got my signature on it. Because something like standing up for the principle of equal pay for equal work isn’t something I’m going to have to 'get back to you on' – it’s the first law I signed."
That comment was a direct swipe at Republican challenger Mitt Romney, whose advisers generated headlines earlier this month when they didn't immediately signal whether the former governor supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Obama heralded the legislation — the first he signed as president — during the address, and gave a shout out to Ledbetter, who was in attendance.
The president sought to use the legislation as a rebuttal to Romney's charge that women have suffered economically under the current administration. Earlier this month Romney said "the real war on women is being waged by the President’s failed economic policies," and argued that a disproportionate number of women have lost their jobs since Obama took office.
But Obama said issues like health care and fair pay affected women and their families economically.
"When women make less than men for the same work, that hurts families who have to get by with less and businesses who have fewer customers with less to spend. When a job doesn’t offer family leave to care for a new baby or sick leave to care for an ailing parent, that burdens men too," Obama said.
The president went on to argue that Republican objections to funding for Planned Parenthood and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act further emphasized the divide.
"When something like the Violence Against Women Act is up for debate, then we know something is haywire. That's something that should be beyond politics," Obama said, noting the legislation "once passed by large bipartisan margins."
But the president also looked to repair damage done by Democratic adviser Hilary Rosen, who drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle when she suggested Romney's wife, Ann, had "never worked a day in her life." That turned into an embarrassment for the Obama campaign, and the president looked to signal his sympathy for women juggling complex families early in his remarks.
"Once Michelle and I had our girls we had to balance raising a family and having a career. And it was tough on me, but let's face it, it was tougher on her," Obama said.