The recent political flap about contraception being an important issue for women is completely contrived by Democrats and the media to divert attention from abortion and other important issues, said conservative political activist Phyllis Schlafly.

“Contraception is not controversial,” she said. “The issue is not access. It’s who’s going to pay for it.”

Schlafly, who led a grass-roots fight to prevent ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, spoke Wednesday at The Citadel as part of the military college’s new course, Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America.

Most women are concerned about issues such as jobs and religious liberty, Schlafly said, not issues being drummed up by feminists to foster support for President Barack Obama.

And feminists are working through the media and other channels because the American public no longer seems to strongly support their agenda, Schlafly said. “Feminists are having a hard time being elected because they essentially are unlikable,” she said.

Schlafly talked to a group of Citadel students about the culture of conservatism and the history of the religious right. She told the all-male group that “feminist is a bad word and everything they stand for is bad.”

And she warned them about having personal relationships with feminists. “Find out if your girlfriend is a feminist before you get too far into it,” she said. “Some of them are pretty. They don’t all look like Bella Abzug.”

Schlafly, who Mallory Factor called “the godmother of the conservative movement,” has been a leader in the conservative movement since the publication of her best-selling 1964 book “A Choice Not an Echo.”

Factor, the John C. West Professor of International Politics and American Government, leads the class, which brings in national conservative leaders each week, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese.

Schlafly told students that the Equal Rights Amendment had a great deal of support when it was first rolled out. But her small group largely was responsible for it not being ratified. The amendment wouldn’t have offered any benefit to women, she said. And it would have made women eligible for the draft, and would have paved the way for same-sex marriage, which she strongly opposes.

She thinks it was clear as early as 1979 that the Equal Rights Amendment was not going to be ratified. That conservative victory was followed by the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980, she said. Those two victories brought momentum to the conservative movement, she said.

Before that, conservatives would say to themselves, “We’re going to pass out our literature and do our thing, but we’re not going to win,” she said.

Citadel senior Matt Ford, in a question-and-answer session, asked Schlafly if it’s possible that the pro-family movement could lead in the future to a more centralized government with more control over people’s personal lives.

Schlafly said that wasn’t going to happen.

Ford said he thinks such things should be considered anytime a movement is launched. “It’s important to look at what might happen in 100 years,” he said.

Schlafly said she thinks pro-family, pro-life GOP candidates have a chance of winning if they concentrate on bringing good jobs to this county and putting a stop to Obama, who she thinks is doing whatever he wants to do. “He’s ruling like a petty dictator,” she said.

And she wants students to know that they can make a difference. “It takes ordinary people to make a difference in politics,” she said, “to get back to ‘We the People’ instead of some little group.”

Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.