Kerry Healey, a top surrogate and close political ally of Mitt Romney, said today on msnbc that access to contraception is a "peripheral" issue in the campaign.
"The question of whether or not we should force someone to give up their religious freedom to provide insurance coverage in some hypothetical situation, is not really the point most women out there—there are 5.5 million unemployed women in the country," Healey, a former lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, said on Andrea Mitchell Reports.
"Did we have a discussion last night?" Healey asked. "Did President Obama put out his plan about how to get those women back in the workforce last night? He did not. He has an empty binder when it comes to proposals about how to help women in America."
Mitchell pressed Healey on the financial considerations for women whose employers refuse to cover contraception on religious grounds. "That is a pocketbook issue," Mitchell said. "It's dollars and cents."
"The problem here is that we are talking about these peripheral issues," Healey said. "We need to really be talking about employment, jobs. That’s what women care about."
In Tuesday night's debate, Romney sought to obscure his support for a law that would let employers decide whether to offer contraception as part of a health insuance plan.
Romney endorsed Healey for lieutenant governor when he ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002. the two ultimately ran on the same GOP ticket and served together.