Limbaugh’s comments about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke have become a lightning rod in the debate, with Democrats pressing the GOP to repudiate his characterization of Fluke’s testimony in support of a mandate that would require insurance coverage to include contraception.

“She wants to be paid to have sex,” Limbaugh said on his conservative radio show. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), along with a group of other female House Democrats, condemned the remarks as “vicious … uncivilized” and said they “unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country.”

Pelosi said Thursday that House Republicans have been “tattooed” with the remarks.

Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Republican candidate for the Senate in 2010, criticized Limbaugh’s tone and said his language “doesn’t help” the GOP position.

“That language is insulting, in my opinion. It’s incendiary and most of all, it’s a distraction. It’s a distraction from what are very real and important issues,” Fiorina said. “The Senate had an important vote yesterday. There are some who are calling this a vote on a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to contraception. I think that’s fundamentally backwards. It’s about the conscience clause.”

The Senate on Thursday narrowly defeated an amendment that would have allowed employers to opt out of contraception coverage based on moral objections.

Influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson criticized Fiorina for weighing in against Limbaugh, defending the provocative radio host for “doing his job” by “using insult and sarcasm to highlight the absurdity of Sandra Fluke and the left’s position.”

Fiorina was discussing the issues under debate in the GOP presidential primary, which she called “a roller coaster ride,” and warning the candidates against using an incendiary tone to discuss social issues, which she noted are important to women on across the ideological spectrum.

The candidates have not weighed in on Limbaugh’s comments yet, but they all condemned the initially proposed rule to mandate contraception as part of every employer’s insurance care. The White House has since agreed to except more employers than initially excepted in the rule, in order to “accommodate” those with religious or moral objections.