February 17, 2012 / 5:31 PM / 6 years ago

Santorum backer apologizes for contraception remark

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Rick Santorum’s main financial backer apologized on Friday for a comment about how women should use contraception, the latest spark in a debate over birth control in the presidential campaign.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is greeted by supporters at a rally sponsored by a Michigan tea party group in Shelby Township, Michigan, February 17, 2012. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Foster Friess, who has given over $380,000 to the pro-Santorum Super PACs, said on television this week that people were focused too much on sex instead of other political issues such as jobs and terrorism.

"This contraceptive thing - my gosh it's so ... inexpensive. Back in my days they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly," he said. ( Watch the clip here: here)

On Friday, he said his remarks were not serious, dated and that “many didn’t recognize it as a joke but thought it was my prescription for today’s birth control practices.”

“To all those who took my joke as modern day approach I deeply apologize and seek your forgiveness,” the 71-year-old investor wrote in a blog, explaining that birth control pills were not available decades ago and “everyone laughed at the silliness on how an aspirin could become a birth control pill.”

Santorum, a Catholic who strongly opposes abortion, was forced to respond to Friess’ comments on Friday, telling CBS he wasn’t responsible for his wealthy donor’s “bad joke.”

Freiss’s apology comes amid an uproar over birth control sparked by new rules adopted by the Obama administration requiring most employers and health insurers to cover contraceptives at no cost to employees.

Santorum and other conservatives pounced on the issue as one of government overreach and an attack on religious freedom. Democrats and other supporters of birth control say opponents of the new rules are denying women’s rights. Several women’s groups demanded an apology for what they said was an insult by Friess.

“This is just the latest example of how the Republican presidential candidates are dangerously out of touch on women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Friess is a devout Christian fond of Biblical quotations, cornball jokes and rehearsed stories. In an recent Reuters interview, Friess wielded colorful language and defended Santorum against charges that the former Senator’s strict social conservative agenda is intolerant.

Additional reporting by Alexander Cohen, Alina Selyukh, and Phil Barbara

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