Romney ad hits Obama contraception policy in fight for female voters

Mitt Romney released a new ad criticizing President Obama's contraception mandate on Thursday — just one day after Obama highlighted the policy in an appeal to female voters.

"President Obama used his healthcare plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith," the ad says. "Mitt Romney believes that's wrong."

The ad doesn't directly mention the contraception policy, but its criticisms echo the attacks over that measure. Obama's policy requires most employers to provide contraception in their health plans without charging a co-pay or deductible. Churches and houses of worship are exempt, and religious-affiliated employers like Catholic universities don't have to provide the coverage directly, but their insurance companies do.

The Romney ad goes on to show Romney quoting from Pope John Paul II while visiting Poland earlier this summer, and trumpets his endorsement from former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa.

"When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?" the ad's narrator asks.

Republicans have largely steered clear of the contraception debate recently, following an initial burst of criticism that appeared to hurt the party's standing with female voters. House Republicans did not follow through on their pledge to repeal the mandate, despite holding more than 30 votes to repeal or weaken other parts of Obama's healthcare law.

And Romney's ad comes just a day after Obama sought to capitalize on that advantage during a campaign stop in Colorado. Obama mentioned the contraception policy several times in a speech that was laced with a strong defense of the Affordable Care Act.

Obama was introduced Wednesday by Sandra Fluke, the law student who ended up at the center of the contraception controversy after she was barred from testifying on Capitol Hill about the policy and was then called a "slut" and a "prostitute" by radio host Rush Limbaugh.