ABORTION AND BIRTH CONTROL
Obama: The Democrat supports access to abortion. His new federal health care law requires contraceptives to be available for free for women enrolled in workplace health plans.
Romney: The Republican opposes access to abortion, which he previously supported. He says state law should guide abortion rights, and Roe v. Wade should be reversed by a future Supreme Court ruling. He also has said he would end federal aid to Planned Parenthood, which provides health services to women, including abortion.
Obama: The president has approved waivers freeing states from the most onerous requirements of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. His Race to the Top competition has rewarded winning states with billions of dollars for pursuing education policies that the president supports. He also won approval from Congress for a $10,000 college tax credit over four years and increases in Pell grants and other financial aid.
Romney: The former Massachusetts governor supported the federal accountability standards of the No Child Left Behind law. He has said the student testing, charter-school incentives and teacher-evaluation standards of Obamas Race to the Top competition make sense although the federal government should have less control of education. He says increases in federal student aid encourage college tuition to go up, and he wants to see private lenders return to the federal student loan program for higher education.
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Obama: He ordered a temporary moratorium on deep-water drilling after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, the United States produced more oil in 2010 than it has since 2003 and all forms of energy production have increased. He achieved historic increases in fuel-economy standards that will save money at the pump but increase the cost of new vehicles. The administration also set first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. He has spent heavily on green energy and embraced nuclear power as a clean energy source but failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass limits that he promised on carbon emissions. He has set a goal of cutting oil imports by half by 2020.
Romney: He pledges the United States will become independent of energy sources outside of North America by 2020 through more aggressive exploitation of domestic oil, gas, coal and other resources, and quick approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada. He supports opening Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves to drilling, as well as Western lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and offshore Alaska. He says green power has yet to become viable and causes of climate change are unproved.
Obama: He supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a matter decided by states. He opposed that recognition in 2008, while supporting the extension of legal rights and benefits to same-sex couples in civil unions. His administration won repeal of the military ban on openly gay members, but has not won repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and affirms the right of states to refuse to recognize such marriages. His administration has ceased defending the law in court but it remains on the books.
Romney: He opposes legal recognition of same-sex marriage and says it should be banned by a constitutional amendment, not left to states. Marriage is not an activity that goes on within the walls of a state. He also opposes civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name, but says states should be left to decide what rights and benefits should be allowed under those unions. He says certain domestic partnership benefits largely unspecified as well as hospital visitation rights are appropriate but others are not. Finally, says he would not seek to restore the ban on openly gay military members.
Obama: As president, the Democrat has not pushed for stricter gun laws. He signed laws letting people carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. The White House says he favors robust steps, within existing law to address gun issues. While he voices support for a renewed ban on assault-type weapons, he has not tried to get that done. Previously, he backed stronger gun controls.
Romney: The Republican opposes stricter gun control laws. After the Colorado theater shooting, he suggested he favors tougher enforcement of existing gun laws. As Massachusetts governor, he vowed in 2002 to protect the states tough gun laws, and he signed a ban on assault weapons in 2004.
Obama: In June, he issued a directive that immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children be exempted from deportation and granted work permits if they apply. He took the temporary step after failing to deliver on promised immigration overhaul, with the defeat of legislation that would have created a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or enlisted in the armed forces. He says he is still committed to that legislation. His administration has deported a record number of illegal immigrants.
Romney: He favors a fence on the U.S.-Mexico border and opposes education benefits to illegal immigrants. He also opposes offering legal status to illegal immigrants who attend college but would do so for those who serve in the armed forces. He would establish a national immigration-status verification system for employers and punish them if they hire noncitizens who do not prove their authorized status. He would end visa caps for spouses and minor children of legal immigrants. He says he would honor work permits for immigrants who benefit from Obamas June policy, promising to put a comprehensive immigration plan into place before those permits expire.
Associated Press writers Ben Feller, Matt Apuzzo, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Dina Cappiello, Ken Thomas, Jim Kuhnhenn and Christopher S. Rugaber contributed