Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) didn't mince words at a Planned Parenthood luncheon on Tuesday when commenting on Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin's recent claim that women rarely become pregnant in cases of "legitimate rape."
According to the Washington Examiner, Boxer used the speaking opportunity to unleash on both Akin and the Republican Party.
"Where's the outrage by Mitt Romney?" she asked reporters. "There is a sickness out there in the Republican Party, and I'm not kidding. Maybe they don't like their moms or their first wives; I don't know what it is."
Boxer reportedly noted that though Akin's comment was unacceptable, it was "a direct outgrowth of the GOP's march to the right on women's health."
"There is a war against women, and Romney and Ryan, if they are elected, would become its top generals," Boxer said, urging the audience to remember the days when desperate women and girls died in botched, back-alley abortions. "We cannot go back."
Boxer made her speech just hours after CNN reported that the 2012 Republican Party platform includes support for a constitutional ban on abortion with no exemption for rape.
The news came at bad time for the party, as Republicans were already battling attacks surrounding Akin's comments. Mitt Romney's campaign moved swiftly to distance itself from the controversy. Laura Bassett and Sam Stein of The Huffington Post reported:
"Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson, told The Huffington Post.
While Saul's statement is consistent with Romney's position on abortion, it's a clear departure from Ryan's position, which is that abortion should only be legal in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. Ryan sponsored a fetal personhood bill, which would effectively criminalize abortion and some forms of birth control without exceptions for rape victims.
President Obama responded to Akin's comments at a surprise news conference on Monday.
"The views expressed were offensive," he said. "Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and it certainly doesn't make sense to me. So what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making health care decisions on behalf of women."
At the Planned Parenthood luncheon, Boxer agreed.
"It's deeper than one Republican congressman," she said. "It goes all the way to the top of the Republican ticket. The truth is there's a war against women, and it's not going to end until we all say at the polls, 'That's not the country we want.'"
Eric Fehrnstrom, senior campaign adviser for Mitt Romney, said on Sunday that issues pertaining to women's reproductive rights, such as abortion and birth control, were "shiny objects" meant to distract voters from the real issues. "Mitt Romney is pro-life," he told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "He'll govern as a pro-life president, but you're going to see the Democrats use all sorts of shiny objects to distract people's attention from the Obama performance on the economy. This is not a social issue election."
The Senate will vote Thursday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would expand and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and make it illegal for employers to punish women for bringing up pay disparity issues. Dana Perino, a Fox News contributor and former press secretary for President George W. Bush, called the equal pay issue "a distraction" from the country's real financial problems last week. "Well, it's just yet another distraction of dealing with the major financial issues that the country should be dealing with," Perino said. "This is not a job creator."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose home state's legislature recently defunded Planned Parenthood and voted to pass a bill that would allow employers to deny women birth control coverage, delivered a floor speech in which he insisted that the war on women is something imaginary for Democrats to "sputter about." "My friends, this supposed 'War on Women' or the use of similarly outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives has two purposes, and both are purely political in their purpose and effect: The first is to distract citizens from real issues that really matter and the second is to give talking heads something to sputter about when they appear on cable television," he said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tried to trivialize concerns about the legislative "war on women" by comparing it to a "war on caterpillars." "If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we'd have problems with caterpillars," Priebus said in an April interview on Bloomberg Television. "It's a fiction."
Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Sarah Steelman (R) took heat from her opponents in May when she contended that Democratic lawmakers' focus on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was "a distraction" from the issues they should be dealing with instead. "I think it's unfortunate that the Democrats have made a political football out of this thing, which I think is what they keep doing to distract from real problems that are facing our nation," she said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) defended the Republican Party in April for going after insurance coverage for contraception by arguing that women don't actually care about contraception. "Women don't care about contraception," she said on ABC's The View. "They care about jobs and the economy and raising their families and all those other things."