Speaking to a gathering of women brought to the White House to discuss economic issues, President Obama said he believed conversations about women’s issues have become “oversimplified” lately.
“There's been a lot of talk about women and women's issues lately as there should be, but I do think the conversation's been oversimplified," Obama said at the White House forum on women and the economy. "Women are not some monolithic bloc. Women are not an interest group. You shouldn't be treated that way."
The president noted the work his administration has done to advance women’s issues, including his signature of the Lilly Ledbetter anti-pay discrimination act and the increase of loans to small businesses, many of which go to women-owned companies.
“When it comes to our efforts on behalf of women and girls," he said, "I'm proud of our efforts."
He also warned against the policies Republicans seek to put in place which he said would set women back, alluding to recent debates over access to preventive care and funding of Planned Parenthood.
“What we can't do now is go back to the policies that got us into so many of the problems that we've been dealing with in the first place,” Obama said. “People say we should get rid of Planned Parenthood. They're not just talking about restricting a woman's ability to make her own health decision; they're talking about denying as a practical matter the preventive care like mammograms that millions of Americans rely on.”
The Planned Parenthood comment may have been in reference to Mitt Romney’s March 14th statement in which he named several government programs he said he would cut.
“Planned Parenthood, we're going to get rid of that,” he said, in part, during an interview with a Missouri television station. His adviser Eric Fehrnstrom later said Romney was referring to cutting government funding for Planned Parenthood, not shutting down the program entirely.
At the women’s forum, Obama also took a dig at Congress’ inaction, he said he thought the legislative body would accomplish more if there were more women on Capitol Hill.
“Is it possible Congress will get more done if there are more women in Congress?” he said, grinning. “I think it's fair to say. That is almost guaranteed.”
At the beginning of his speech Obama also commented on the Labor Department’s March jobs report, which showed that the economy added 120,000 jobs, fewer than the 200,000 or more jobs that have been added every month so far this year, and a ticked-down unemployment rate of 8.2 percent.
While he said he “welcomed today’s news” of continued economic growth, he added that “it’s clear to every American that there will still be ups and downs along the way, and that we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Republicans said the unemployment number was still far too high, with the Republican National Committee noting that “of the 740,000 jobs lost since Obama took office, 683,000 of them were held by women.”
“President Obama and his fellow Democrats love to say they stand for women, but women can no longer stand the Obama economy. Women deserve better, and in November we will hold him accountable,” RNC co-chair Sharon Day said in a statement.