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Highlights from the Women's Leadership Forum national issues conference

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lays out the stark differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney when it comes to the issues women face.

Today is the first day of the 2012 Women's Leadership Forum National Issues Conference. Nearly 700 Democratic women from across the country are gathered in Washington to discuss what's at stake for American women in this election.

The conference is hosting a powerhouse line-up of speakers who are leading a conversation on how we'll re-elect a President who understands what matters to women and who is committed to fighting for women's issues in the face of unprecedented attacks from congressional Republicans and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Here's a snapshot of what we've heard today.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz laid out the stark differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney when it comes to the issues women face:

"In November, women across the country will choose between a guy who gets it, and a guy who doesn't.

"We see the President's commitment to America's women every single day—from signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law to investing in STEM education for young women and girls. We see It in his landmark health care reforms, which make it illegal for an insurance company to charge you more than a man, along with providing preventive care like mammograms—and yes, birth control, free of charge.

"So we must share with women everywhere the clear choice they have before them: We can spend four more years marching toward the day when women have all the choices and control that all Americans are promised with a true champion for women's priorities. Or we can choose Gov. Romney."

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued a call to action:

"Do not let the Mitt Etch A Sketchers have people think that he's really a closet moderate. Mitt Romney is the most severely conservative candidate on reproductive rights—make no mistake about it.

"He wants to defund Planned Parenthood, appoint pro-life justices, and supports Blunt-Rubio amendment.

The choice is clear. Are we going to have recovery or regression? Move forward or move backward? … Your nation is calling you. So women—sisters—I know that you, like me, will salute and say, 'Mr. President, we are reporting for duty."

NARAL Pro-Choice America's Nancy Keenan praised President Obama's commitment to protecting every woman's right to choose:

"This debate is not an abtract, philosophical discussion. And it's not about politics. It's about women's lives. And President Obama gets that.

"President Obama wants women to make personal decisions with their doctor, their family, and their God. Mitt Romney wants politicians to make that decision.

"At NARAL Pro-Choice America, we are ready to take on Mitt Romney. … I need you to stand up for President Obama, who has consistently stood with us."

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett shared insights into the President's background and why his "character, integrity, steadfast determination, and moral compass that only points true north" make him such a strong leader on women's issues:

"Because he grew up and lives to this day well surrounded by women, it should not be a surprise to anyone that he'd have a cabinet and staff filled with women. It is no accident that the very first bill he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It's no surprise his first two appointments to the Supreme Court were two extraordinary women, including the first Latina. And it's no surprise that in his first two months in office, he created the White House Council on Women and Girls."

The Women's Leadership Forum National Issues Conference

Lilly Ledbetter herself shared her story of being denied equal pay for equal work—and the voice she discovered in standing up and fighting back:

"My mission is to enlist everyone across this great neation to get our president re-elected. From the time he put me into the history books with that signature at the White House, he gave me an awesome burden and an awesome responsibility.

"Speaking up and standing up, I learned that I was really standing up for every working woman across this nation. It got a lot of people thinking. And it got a lot of people on the bandwagon—a lot of men too.

"One person can start a battle, but it takes all of us to win the war.

"That's why it is so critical that we get every person across this nation to re-elect President Obama so he can finish what he started."

And Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards laid out the reasons why Planned Parenthood and their millions of supporters are going to get out the vote for the President in an unprecedented way:

"President Obama stood with Planned Parenthood, and by God, we're going to stand with him, 6 million strong.

"No more politicians go to D.C. who are against women's health care and women's rights. That's our battle cry. So if you believe in civil rights, if you believe in women's rights, if you believe in human rights, we have to get busy.

"Women in America—moms, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters—women are a force that cannot be defeated in this country."