Women exist!

That’s the latest revelation in the race for the 52nd House District between Rep. Scott Peters and Carl DeMaio.

Sara Libby on News

Both have unveiled plans aimed at ensuring women receive equal pay, expanding access to birth control and other issues.

And despite Peters and DeMaio’s jockeying over whose ideas are best and whose concern is more sincere, there’s actually a lot they seem to agree on. That’s a big deal. Unfortunately, the follow-up further proves that even when everyone’s on the same page about these issues, the result is the same: all sniping and no progress.

Equal Pay

That women still don’t make what men make has become a rallying point for both sides.

Peters has jabbed DeMaio for not taking a position on the Paycheck Fairness Act. But on Tuesday, DeMaio campaign spokesman Dave McCulloch confirmed to me that DeMaio does support the bill. That’s quite a departure for a Republican — Senate Republicans blocked the bill yet again earlier this week.

Both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter  Fair Pay Act —which passed in 2009 — address an employer’s decision to pay a woman less than a man for doing the same job. But the Paycheck Fairness Act would give Ledbetter some teeth. From Vox:

It requires employers to justify pay discrepancies and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose their own wages or ask about other workers’. It would also allow plaintiffs to recover compensatory and punitive damages, which they cannot currently do under the Equal Pay Act.

The bill is “really an attempt to finish implementing (Ledbetter). A lot of it needs to be strengthened. We’re still seeing a lot of discrimination in the workplace happening even after the (Ledbetter) legislation was signed, and this is a chance to address some of that,” Peters told me.

The Paycheck Fairness Act has come up in every Congress since 1997 and whoever wins this election will almost certainly vote on it again. Now we know both DeMaio and Peters would support it.

Over-the-Counter Birth Control

A big part of DeMaio’s plan for women is his support for making birth control available over the counter. Peters says he supports this too – a remarkable point of agreement on a contentious issue.

But Peters argues DeMaio’s plan would actually limit access unless it comes with a requirement for insurance to keep covering it.

“I’m open to have birth control dispensed over the counter, but I would want to ensure that insurance companies continue to have to pay for it. Birth control is very expensive. And that’s the assurance that we can’t get from Carl,” Peters said.

Peters also knocked DeMaio’s plan because he announced the idea at the same time as other GOP candidates – suggesting it was a calculated move, and not a sincere attempt to expand access.

But that only reinforces that it’s a good idea – instead of bashing the concept on its merits, Peters is just jabbing the way it was rolled out.

The way it works now, an uninsured woman has to pay for 1) a non-covered doctor’s visit and 2) the pills themselves. Under DeMaio’s plan, you’d only have to pay for the second one, and the first one is what costs the big bucks. Sure, continued insurance coverage would be ideal, but expensive birth control is better than no birth control.

Hobby Lobby

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow employers to deny birth control coverage to employees for religious reasons is another issue where the candidates are much closer than either would have you believe.

Peters strongly denounced the ruling to KPBS: “That’s not a decision for a boss or a company or a country to make, that’s a personal decision that’s a civil right,” he said.

Since then, Peters has made the case that DeMaio has dodged the issue.

“We really don’t know what (DeMaio’s) position is on Hobby Lobby, and whether he’d try to reverse that. I think he’s been intentionally ambiguous about that,” Peters said.

DeMaio’s statement on Hobby Lobby did display some ninja-level evasiveness. His response to the critical decision about women and birth control fails to mention either women or birth control:

“The continued divisiveness over this issue simply reaffirms my belief that individuals should have the right to make their own health care decisions and reinforces my proposal to give individuals, not employers, more say in their health care,” DeMaio’s statement read.

But even if he’s wishy-washy about how much he doesn’t like Hobby Lobby, there’s no way to read what he said and come away believing DeMaio supports the decision.


Peters and DeMaio are rivals bickering about which approach to women best advances access to birth control and equal pay. The winners in that are women who are worried about birth control and equal pay.

We’ll all lose, though, if post-election we keep up this habit of seizing on the small details where we disagree instead of finding a way to capitalize on big-picture consensus.

Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled DeMaio’s spokesman’s name.

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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