WASHINGTON (AP) — Casting his re-election along gender lines, President Barack Obama told hundreds of female supporters Friday that Republicans seem determined to meddle in women's health decisions in ways that are "appalling, offensive and out of touch."
A recent fight over contraception access, Obama said, was like "being in a time machine."
"These are folks who claim to believe in freedom from government interference and meddling — it doesn't seem to bother them when it comes to a woman's health," Obama said during early evening remarks at a women's issues conference.
Obama's remarks harkened back to the partisan election-year fight that has emerged over women's issues, from contraception to stay-at-home mothers to health care.
Polls show Obama holding an advantage with female voters over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Eager to widen that lead, Obama and Democrats have tried to portray Republican stands on social policies as a "war against women."
Women have accounted for the majority of voters in presidential elections and they provided Obama's margin of victory in 2008.
Speaking to female supporters Friday, Obama drew attention to the equal-pay law that was the first piece of legislation he signed after taking office, saying it proved his commitment to advancing the rights of women.
"You don't have to take my word for it, you've got my signature on it," he said. "Because something like standing up for equal pay for equal work isn't something I've got to get back to you on."
Earlier this month, a Romney aide told reporters on a conference call that they would have to "get back to you" on whether the former Massachusetts governor supported the legislation, known as the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Romney's campaign has said he has no interest in changing the law but won't say whether he would have signed it if he were president.
The National Issues Conference is a two-day fundraising event organized by Obama supporters to showcase women in his administration and campaign team, and draw attention to White House policies aimed at women. Most tickets for the event cost $1,000.
Later Friday, Obama attended a smaller fundraiser at the home of Debra Lee, the chairwoman and CEO of the media and entertainment company BET Holdings. About 40 backers, mostly women, paid $40,000 for dinner with the president.
Obama told that group that despite achievements under his administration, "we're nowhere near where we need to be yet." He said the slow recovery and the partisanship in Washington had made many across the country cynical, and he predicted the 2012 race would be more difficult that his presidential campaign in 2008.
"They see the mess that goes on in Washington and there's a temptation at a certain point to say, bah, a plague on both their houses," he said.