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Gloria Steinem: Women’s rights are an economic issue

Updated

Political activist Gloria Steinem joined Hardball Monday before the final presidential debate to discuss Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s extreme positions on women’s rights.

Steinem and Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter sat down with Chris Matthews in Boca Raton, Fla., to talk about the differences between Romney and President Obama on issues like fair pay and reproductive rights.

“I think the problem is that when we say ‘women,’ it only applies to women,” Steinem said of the term “women’s issues.” “But in fact it’s the whole country.”

Steinem argued that, if paid comparable to men, women would reinvest that money back into the American economy by spending it. “Equal pay is the biggest economic stimulus this country could possibly have,” she said.

Cutter criticized the Romney campaign for treating the conversation about women’s rights as purely about social issues, without recognizing the relationship between social and economic issues.

“The biggest indicator of whether a woman can work or not, be educated or not, be healthy or not is reproductive control,” Steinem said. “And that is an economic issue.”

Chris Matthews brought up the debate over access to contraception—a debate that has been in the spotlight since the Affordable Care Act allowed women free access to preventative health care services.

“A young woman who works in her twenties or thirties and is not ready to have a child—that’s her decision, and I think we can all agree on that. If she wants birth control, isn’t it in society’s interest for her to get that as part of her health care?” Matthews asked.

Cutter agreed and pointed out that contraception was not just used for birth control. “It also has to do with preventing cancer and other diseases,” she said. “It’s a preventative medication. That’s why the Affordable Care Act includes it as part of preventative measures for women… It does not make sense to put employers in charge of that decision. Women should be able to make that decision.”

Steinem added that she often heard from Republican women who argued that, when it comes to restricting women’s rights, Romney would “never really do that.” Matthews responded:  ”That’s a convenient summation: nobody knows if he believes in anything, therefore he might not do anything.”

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that, among female voters, if the election were held today, Obama has a clear lead over Romney.

Gloria Steinem: Women's rights are an economic issue

Updated