* Female U.S. representatives appear as group on stage
* Speakers say Democrats will protect women's interests
By Patricia Zengerle
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Sept 4 Two dozen Democratic
women from the U.S. House of Representatives brought the charge
that Republicans are waging a "war on women" to the party's
convention stage on Tuesday with sharp denunciations of
Republicans on healthcare, equal pay and domestic violence.
Led by Nancy Pelosi of California, the only woman to serve
as speaker of the U.S. House, the women pressed the party's
argument that the Democrats will protect women's interests
against what they described as Republican attacks.
"When my Republican colleagues held a hearing about birth
control and refused to include a single woman on the first panel
as a witness, I asked, 'Where are the women?'" said New York
congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
"Where are the women? The women are here. And we are on our
way to re-elect our president," she said, to cheers.
Democrats see the women's vote as a key to victory this
fall, with polls showing President Barack Obama leading among
women voters, and trailing among men. They are spotlighting
women officials - and women running for office - at the
convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, this week.
They have seized upon socially conservative statements by
Republicans to paint the rival party as anti-woman, such as the
opposition to contraception by former Senator Rick Santorum, who
spoke last week at the Republican convention and was Mitt
Romney's last major rival for the Republican presidential
They also seized on a comment last month by Todd Akin, a
Missouri congressman running for a U.S. Senate seat, who opined
that women are unlikely to get pregnant from "legitimate" rape,
and sponsored anti-abortion legislation with fellow congressman
Paul Ryan, Romney's vice presidential running mate.
U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz, from Pennsylvania,
said Democrats would keep Republicans from destroying Medicare,
the popular government health insurance program for older
Medicare has become a focus of campaigning for the Nov. 6
Romney and Ryan support a plan to change Medicare into one
that would give recipients a fixed amount of government money
each year to buy private health insurance or traditional
The Democrats attack that approach as a bid to "destroy"
Medicare and turn it into a voucher program. Republicans in turn
insist that Obama cut $716 billion from Medicare to pay for his
The speaker list Tuesday night also included Nancy Keenan,
president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, Tammy
Duckworth, a wounded Iraq war veteran who is running for a House
seat from Illinois, Lilly Ledbetter, whose legal fight for pay
equity inspired a law in her name, and first lady Michelle
Duckworth, who lost part of both legs and part of an arm
when her Blackhawk helicopter was shot down over Iraq in 2004,
sharply criticized Romney for the Republicans' failure to talk
about the war in Afghanistan during their convention last week.
"Last week, Mitt Romney had a chance to show his support for
the brave men and women he is seeking to command," she said.
"But he chose to criticize President Obama instead of even
uttering the word 'Afghanistan,'" Duckworth said.