Gloria Steinem, an American feminist and leader of the women’s liberation movement, on Monday called Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney “most destructive to equality” for his stance on many reproductive rights issues affecting women.

Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball” shortly before the third presidential debate in Florida, Steinem told host Chris Matthews that it is dangerous for one of the nation’s major political parties to be headed by extremists.

“Well, there’s the problem with Romney -- or several things, his policies, that he doesn’t tell the truth about his policies, and that his attitudes -- his internal attitudes are a problem,” Steinem told Matthews. “I have been around a long time. I think I’m older than you, OK? So this is the most destructive to equality candidate I have ever seen in my life, ever, for the presidency. Much more than [Barry] Goldwater, [Richard] Nixon, [George W.] Bush.”

Romney changed his stance on abortion earlier this month, saying he will not push for legislation limiting it. However, the candidate has long argued on the campaign trail that he would get rid of federal funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood and appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. The 1973 Supreme Court decision made abortion legal in every state.

“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” the GOP candidate told the Des Moines Register on Oct. 9.

Romney, who used to be pro-choice, said in a 1994 debate against Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy that it was his belief abortion should be safe and legal in America. Romney also said he “support[s] that law and support[s] the right of a woman to make that choice.”

However, last June, Romney made his pro-life position public in the National Review. The Republican candidate stated that he believes “abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. I support the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine.”

National and some state polls show a vast gender gap favoring Obama. A Quinnipiac/CBS News survey of Ohio voters showed a double-digit lead among women, 55 percent to 40 percent. While a large margin, this is a drop from the 60 percent to 35 percent lead in the same poll last month. Other polls showed the gap among women voters narrowing.

When asked why women would vote for Romney, Steinem has this to say: “Because this is, first of all, it’s a backlash against equality … it’s a backlash against all the social justice movements which have won the majority.”

Steinem went on to say that the current Republican Party is an extremist party and that she hopes a defeat will send it back to its roots.

“I hope if they’re defeated big time this time, true Republicans, centrist Republicans will come and take it back,” she said. “It is so dangerous to have one of our great parties controlled by extremists.”