At a private fundraiser in Naples, Fla., on Thursday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan mocked the so-called "war on women."
"Now it's a war on women; tomorrow it's going to be a war on left-handed Irishmen or something like that," Ryan told the crowd of donors, according to Shushanna Walshe of ABC News.
Democrats began using the "war on women" rhetoric in late 2011 to describe an unprecedented legislative focus by Republican lawmakers during the last two years on limiting women's access to abortion and contraception. Ryan has cast 60 votes on abortion and reproductive rights issues during his time in the House of Representatives, and all of them were deemed "anti-choice" by women's health advocates.
In addition to passing or proposing laws that would limit abortion rights, mandate ultrasounds, allow employers to deny women birth control coverage and defund Planned Parenthood, Republicans have repeatedly come under fire during the past several months for making inflammatory comments about women's health. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" for advocating for contraception coverage, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) said victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant, and Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) said on Thursday that there should be no abortion exception for the "life of the mother" because "with modern technology and science, you can't find one instance" in which a woman would actually die from a pregnancy.
Republicans, in response, have long claimed that the "war on women" is a figment of Democrats' imaginations and that women's issues are "shiny objects of distraction" Democrats are using to take the spotlight off the real issues this election.
Rich Beeson, political director for Mitt Romney's campaign, echoed Ryan's sentiment in an interview with ABC7 News on Thursday, calling women's reproductive rights and equal pay "small things" that are not important to voters.
"Barack Obama four years ago said, 'If you don't have something to talk about on the issues you talk about the small things,'" Beeson said in response to a question about women's issues. "And that's what we're seeing from the Obama campaign ... They don't have an issue to run on, they dont have an agenda for the next term, so they want to talk about the small things and distract America from the important things of restoring and strengthening the middle class and putting America back to work."