He’s Got The Whole World In His Binders: What Romney/Ryan Would Mean for Women Globally

To the untrained ear, it might seem as though Mitt Romney is, in these final weeks before the election, making some last ditch efforts to board the women’s rights train. And to be sure, he’s made some semantic strides. From not really mentioning women’s rights at all to talking about binders full of women (which were forced into his hands, did you hear about that?) to Monday’s debate in which he employed  female pronouns as “rhetorical pawns,” someone seems to have given Mitt the memo that women do cast votes/have political importance.  In the foreign policy debate, Romney actually said things like “gender equality” and “women in public life,” phrases that he may have learned specifically for last night’s debate. But it’s important to remember that for all his pandering to female-identified voters, a Romney/Ryan administration would disastrous for women not just in this country, but literally all over the world.

A supporter of reproductive rights in the Philippines

If Romney’s busy busy first day in office goes according to schedule, international women’s rights will be soundly and immediately demolished: as Rachel mentioned in her recap of the debate, a Romney administration could mean a reinstatement of the global gag rule — in fact, he has pledged to do so. The global gag rule, or the “Mexico City Policy” as it’s officially named, bans international women’s health organizations from receiving USAID funding if they mention abortion to their clients, even as simply a word included in sexual health education. As explained on ThinkProgess, “Health clinics are forced to choose between censoring the health programs they have developed to serve women’s needs or being denied the funding they need to keep their doors open at all.”

And since Paul Ryan doesn’t want anyone to have an abortion because he thought a fetus looked like a cute bean, we should all take this threat very seriously. It’s estimated that 40 million abortions will take place in the developing world this year — from which 47 thousand women will die. But the global gag rule would mean more than just a loss of abortion rights: without funding from the US, women’s health clinics would have a hard time providing safer-sex supplies. It’s also bound to lead to an increase in back-alley abortions, and since it would cut off funding to the organizations that would provide care to women suffering from abortion-related complications, the global gag rule directly puts women’s lives at risk.

Additionally, Romney has promised to block the US from contributing to the United Nations Population Fund (a George W. Bush policy that was ended by Obama). The United Nations Population fund “supports programs in some 150 countries to improve poor women’s reproductive health, reduce infant mortality, end the sexual trafficking of women and prevent the spread of H.I.V.” The current federal contribution to the fund reaches 31 million women, and according to the Guttmacher Institute, prevents 22,000 maternal deaths annually. Despite those numbers, Romney justifies his desire to stop giving money to the fund by claiming that it provides support to coerced abortions in China, though a State Department investigation found this idea to be totally false, according to the New York Times.

At the heart of the United Nations Population Fund is the belief that reproductive rights are at the intersection of human rights, gender equality and population dynamics, and a lack of access to reproductive rights marginalizes women and young people — more so for those living in poverty. Likewise, at the heart of Romney’s foreign policy is a global, systematic take down of women’s rights, starting with the poorest and most vulnerable.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!

Gabrielle Korn

Gabrielle Korn is a writer living in Los Angeles with her wife and dog.

Gabrielle has written 95 articles for us.


  1. Nothing new here ladies, the same tired DNC talking points.

    Being a woman, sorry to disappoint anyone I still find the binders outrage to be a stretch. Good luck to both men, but this whinny article just us look petty. A sitcom couldn’t script a better whinny feminist character than this article.

    • I sure had point you did, but grammar make not so good looking and more like whiney pantaloons griping.

    • I see where you’re coming from Chelsea…. it’s sooo petty to care about the deaths of women in other countries than the US.


      (Another Brit here failing to understand how it can be that Romney is in with a chance of winning. Do *that many* people in the States not see the rest of the world population as fully human? Or in fact, the poor/lgbts/ethnic minorities/etc in their own country? Scary).

      • It’s people like Chelsey who tell themselves that Romney “isn’t really that extreme on women’s rights” – and they also think he’s going to somehow fix our economy with the sorts of policies that got us into the current recession. Because Obama can’t build Rome in a day.

        • I’m an Obama fan, but I really don’t get why his supporters completely ignore the fact that he did very, very little to save the economy. It wasn’t because Bush had broken it so badly, it’s because it wasn’t his priority, so he ignored the issue altogether (minus the car industry).

          Canada was in the same boat 5 years ago (because of Bush), we tackled it, and got out of it. We’ve even had meetings with the Obama admin JUST to work on their failing economy, and they all just fell on deaf ears.

          The plan he just mapped out is bogus. A good quarter of what he’s claiming to save over the next few years is borrowed. How do you expect anyone to trust him with the economy when it has gotten worse and worse under his watch? Especially with a plan like that?

          At least Romney/Ryan are mentioning plans that have worked in the past.

          • Romney/Ryan plans havent worked in the past, theyre the policies that got us into this financial mess. Their plan doesnt add up, and it will not work

          • I agree with Hoda. I’m tired of Obama’s entire agenda being “blame Bush.” This is a man who is quick to take the credit for the few achievements of his presidency (“I got bin Laden!”), but will quickly shift the blame to someone else for the office’s inevitable pitfalls. “It’s not my fault” is not something I want to hear, over and over again, from the president of my country.

            This is a man who I supported in ’08 but who has failed miserably to live up to expectation. There’s only so much you can hear about how the poor guy inherited *such* a lousy situation; the fact is he’s only managed to bury us deeper.

          • First of all, I don’t think Obama ever suggested that “getting bin Laden” was ALL HIM, he’s always given credit where credit was due w/r/t the military.

            Second of all, it doesn’t make sense NOT to blame Bush. Open a history textbook, look up how long it took us to get out of previous recessions and depressions. It’s a lot longer than four years. FDR’s New Deal was far more expansive than anything Obama has done, but it really didn’t take until WWII for the U.S. economy to fully recover from the Great Depression. And meanwhile, just like Obama, he had to deal with nonsense attacks from people who were mad that he couldn’t build Rome in a day.

          • addendum: to be fair, there were some more warranted attacks on FDR in that period though, like when he tried to stack the Supreme Court

          • Obama worked very hard on the economy. And it’s working. Republicans blocked him at every single step, literally, despite the danger of the country sliding into depression. Their explicit strategy was to block Obama, full stop. No matter what he was doing. Implicitly, they knew that the worse the economy did, the better their election chances. Shortsightedness of voters and all.

            Also, Obama’s commitment to education, particularly community colleges, is vital to the economy and is a clear difference from Republicans. He is helping people go to college in very material ways (tax credits, Pell grants, cutting wasteful bureaucracy, keeping loan interest from rising). He would also limit student loan repayments to 25% of your income, making higher education feasible for so many more people.

            Not to mention health care. Not to mention Bush’s policies really did contribute to the recession. Not to mention Obama always explicitly says he takes responsibility for everything going on right now, because that is his job. Republicans blaming the economy on him is predictable but ridiculous. We were hemorrhaging jobs as he was inaugurated. Now we’re not.

            Not to mention he raised government spending the least since Eisenhower… 1.3% vs. Reagan and W.’s 8%. Including the stimulus bill.

            Anyway, we’re talking about Romney’s policies directly leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of women. Hello?

          • The stimulus and the auto bailout were “very, very little”?

            And no, you have it backward. Romney and Ryan’s policies are the kind that caused a recession in the late 1980s and caused the current depression in 2008.

      • As a Canadian, I am fucking speechless this guy was ever elected in anything at all. I try not to pay attention to judgmental Canadians (yes, they exist) who say stupid shit about Americans, because surely that can’t be an accurate portrayal of a significant portion of an entire country, but honestly, what the fuck.

        I can’t even. I literally cannot even.

    • This comment just makes me think you didn’t actually read the article since you’re only commenting on the title.

    • “Whinny feminist character” – I didn’t know horses could be feminists. But I guess this explains My Little Pony.

  2. What does that mean that the UN Population Fund was “ended by Obama”? We stopped giving money to it under Obama’s presidency? And Romney would keep not giving money? Ambiguity!

    • The Bush policy of not contributing to the fund was ended by Obama, i.e. he removed the block from contributing.

    • Just because she made a problematic comment doesn’t make her a troll. For the record, a lot of people, including me, find the “binders full of women” jokes to be tired and overdone. Please distinguish between someone who is purposely trying to provoke angry responses and someone who makes a comment you disagree with.

      • I think there’s a difference between respectful disagreement though and someone who says “A sitcom couldn’t script a better whinny feminist character than this article.”

        • Even someone who disrespectfully disagrees isn’t a troll, in my opinion. I’m just annoyed at people who assume that anyone who has a distinctly different opinion (even if it’s a stupid one) is a troll. I know the distinction can get a little fuzzy, but the way I’ve seen “troll” used on this and other sites is a way of dismissing arguments from the other side.

      • Let’s see:

        – complete failure to address anything in the article
        – base accusations of the author’s intent
        – ad hominem attacks on “feminism”

        Sounds like a troll to me. It’s one thing to have a different opinion. There have been pretty spirited discussions about various topics without resorting to the t word. If you want to have a discussion about America’s role in aiding the reproductive health in the third world, fine. But I’m not interested in discussing whether a sitcom writer could’ve come up with a more “whiny feminist”.

        And I’ll stop joking about Romney’s binders when Republicans stop calling Obama a Muslim.

  3. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to be paying attention to the effects a Romney/Ryan administration would have on women’s rights and women’s health in the US, much less abroad.

    I also just can’t imagine going back to a world where women’s organizations are afraid to lose their funding for actually trying to help women. It was terrible then and it would be terrible now. Obama has really made a lot of great changes that positively impact women worldwide.

    • I don’t really care much for the “binders full of women” jokes either because Mr Romney was just trying to illustrate that there are competent women out there.

      What I do find frustrating, however, is that there’s not been much written on the fact that he, yet again, lied about what had happened in the past. These binders were, as Gabrielle notes, forced into his hands without him even asking for them. Also, the number of lower rank positions that women held in his cabinet went up for a little while after this but none in the higher rank positions went to these qualified women. He personally implemented a glass ceiling of some sorts for these women. Also, at the end of his position as governor the number of women employed was lower than when he started (this is very well discussed in a recent Rachel Maddow episode). It is disgraceful of him to stand in front of 60 million people and say that he did “this and that” to increase equality when he’s done nothing, and when he will change women’s rights to the worse if elected.

      People have the right to vote for whomever they want and that’s the way it should be in a democracy. Yet, I cannot understand how anyone would want to vote for someone who gets caught lying. Not once, twice but countless times. Mr. Romney is the perfect business man and that almost means per definition that he wants to sell Americans a deal by saying anything that the population wants to hear. The difference is that people can’t ask for their money/votes back when Mr. Romney’s product turns out to be something else than promised. And Mr. Romney knows this and so he continues to promise whatever he needs to promise. Why that is be a good credential for being President is beyond me.

      Mr. Obama has to win this election!

      /Another European that is fascinated by this year’s election.

      • This comment is spot on. It also addresses the reason I have a problem with the “binders” jokes, because instead of addressing the underlying issue of Romney’s stance on employment equality, they just reduce the problem to a cheap joke.

        And I am sure it is baffling to witness this election from the outside, but the only explanation I can offer is that people have such deep-seated fears of a young, progressive Black man (aka the Other) running the country that they will vote for even a liar rather than overcome their paranoia.

        • While I enjoy the binder jokes…

          What people should emphasize is that Romney totally misled with that answer! He didn’t ask for binders full of women. They were given to him and his opponent by a women’s organization before the election.

          He said: “I went to a number of women’s groups and said, ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women,” he said.

          Just. Not. True.


          So the less funny thing is that he lied in the debate.

          Sadly, it’s not very surprising.

      • Here’s something I don’t get, you guys. Why the issue of whether binders were reached for or handed to by Mitt Romney is being scandalized as *such* an egregious lie… when Obama’s blatant falsehoods surrounding Chris Stevens’s death has been fully glossed over. I’m not one to go around saying politicians don’t lie… all politicians massage the truth in order to articulate what they think people want to hear. But there are different levels of lying and Obama’s, if you ask me, has been a real doozy. Discuss.

  4. I wish this website would talk about the views of ALL women, not just liberal Obama supporters. There are other women out there with different views and opinions. I just don’t like to see the same thing presented evey time there is a political post on this site.

    • It’s kind of hard not to be a liberal Obama supporter on Autostraddle when he’s the only candidate that supports the interests of our target demographic: queer and/or women.

      • You see, I am pro-life. He dosen’t support my views and opinions. My whole point was that not all queers and women LOOOOOVEEEEEEEEEEE Obama and hate every breath Romney takes. And Dina is totally right too :)

    • No one website can talk about the views of all women. At least without posting approximately eleventy billion times a day.

    • Why should this website represent the views of all women? It’s clearly a website for queer, liberal women, with a largely North American slant to the writing. This isn’t the Expression Of Every Woman Everywhere’s Opinion. You might as well go and complain to the Huffington Post that they’re not writing enough articles about how fabulous Mitt Romney’s hair is.

      • I mean, the guy DOES have good hair.
        If you’re into that WASPy, Mormon-on-your-doorstep kind of thing.
        (hey, i’m not hating. you do you.)

    • Cheers, Ria. I for one understand why many of the posts on this site are left-leaning, but it’s a bit obvious when posts actually include phrases like “Mitt Fucking Romney” in the body text. It’d be nice to even discuss the possibility of a woman being pro-choice yet -personally- against the idea of abortion… or the idea that mmmaybe abortion could remain legal yet *not* the full responsibility of the government to finance. All in all you can’t expect liberal-interest sites to be welcoming to divergent points of view, but on a site like Autostraddle – which I really like – one would hope folks could be a bit less acerbic in their response to such an opinion.

      That said, it could be a lot worse.

      • Abortion is in no way right now the responsibility of the government to finance. The government funding to Planned Parenthood does not cover abortion. Our primary fight right now is to keep abortion legal, not to finance it with government money.

    • Why don’t you express you view of why you disagree with the point–that Romney should not be elected–in the article?

    • I mean, Ria, what do you disagree with about the conclusion, given the facts stated in the article? Regardless of whether it falls into the liberal or conservative category?

    • I mean, there’s plenty of articles on here that take liberalism for granted. It’s kind of emotional support for a lot of us, in a country where our rights and safety are under attack.

      What I don’t understand is why you picked *this* article to complain about the preponderance of liberal writing here.

  5. I have a question, you guys. As women’s rights are so central to many people’s interests in this election,does no one have a problem with the Lena Dunham ad equating voting with sex?

    Lena Dunham was a girl… until she ‘did it’ for the first time with “great guy” Barack Obama. Ladies? This is what the Obama campaign has reduced you to. You’re a sexual object to them … and voting is like having sex for the first time. It’s nice they think this much of you and your intellectual approach to this election, isn’t it? Gross.

Comments are closed.