Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina called for over-the-counter birth control in a speech in Washington on Thursday.
The former Hewlett Packard CEO said such a policy would better serve women and drive costs down.
"It is time for over-the-counter birth control, which will drive down prices and increase availability," Fiorina said to applause.
It is the first time she has called for such a policy. She received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of about 700.
Fiorina accused liberals of distorting the meaning of “feminism” and called on conservatives to take back the term in a speech that seeks to refine the party’s image on women’s issues.
“Feminism began as a rallying cry to empower women — to vote, to get an education, to enter the workplace. But over the years, feminism has devolved into a left-leaning political ideology where women are pitted against men and used as a political weapon to win elections,” she said.
“Being empowered means having a voice. But ideological feminism shuts down conversation — on college campuses and in the media. “
Fiorina hit liberals for alleging a “war on women,” a popular Democratic line of attack used heavily in the 2014 midterm elections. She criticized pro-abortion rights groups for calling Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) “window dressing” and referring to Fiorina and other GOP candidates as threats to women’s health.
“Today, only 23 percent of women identify with the term feminist. Liberal ideas aren't the answer. Their version of feminism isn’t working. It is time for a new definition,” she said during her speech to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
“A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses. We will have arrived when every woman can decide for herself how to best find and use her God-given gifts. A woman may choose to have five children and home-school them. She may choose to become a CEO ... or run for President.”
Fiorina hasn’t shied away from addressing women’s issues in the race or from needling Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton over her stances on those issues. She regularly draws contrasts between the two and previously spoke to reporters outside a South Carolina hotel where Clinton was set to give a speech that afternoon, framing Clinton as unresponsive to the media.
Republicans have long sought to shore up their standing with women and minorities. President Obama won 55 percent of the female vote in 2012, and 51 percent of female voters picked Democrats in 2014 despite overwhelming gains by Republicans, according to NBC News exit polls.
In both elections, Democrats and liberal advocacy groups regularly chided the GOP for its stances on issues including abortion rights and women’s healthcare funding.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in October that the party needs to increase its promotion of female candidates, but he pushed back on Democrats’ assertions that the party doesn’t represent them.
Fiorina outlined a number of policies meant to help women. She backed the end to the “seniority systems in government and unions,” expanding school choice, combating out-of-wedlock births and rolling back regulation to spark small business growth.
She closed with a call to “tackle the webs of dependence that are trapping women today,” noting that government subsidies sometimes mean employees would keep less of their money if they earned raises that disqualified them for certain programs based on income.
- Updated at 9:50 p.m.