Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, a staunchly conservative nominee for U.S. Senate who has continued to fight the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy since it took effect last year, defended his no-exceptions position on abortion by saying that pregnancy was rare in the cases of “legitimate rape.”
Akin, the Republican nominee challenging U.S. senator Claire McCaskill, made the comments Sunday in an interview with KTVI-TV first reported by Talking Points Memo. The candidate was asked why he opposed abortion in all circumstances, including pregnancies resulting from rape.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” he said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
He continued, “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
The remarks drew an immediate rebuke from McCaskill, who called the comments “beyond comprehension” in a statement reported by The Washington Post. The Romney-Ryan campaign moved to distance itself from Akin’s view, saying, “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.” Other Republicans went further and called for him to withdraw from the race.
Akin later issued a statement that said he “misspoke,” but he maintained his view opposing abortion in all circumstances.
The six-term incumbent has been one of the staunchest opponents of allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military. Last May, on the same day that President Obama announced his support for marriage equality, Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee approved an Akin amendment to the 2013 defense authorization bill that would create a “statutory conscience protection clause” for military personnel, including chaplains, who object to open service. The year before, he sponsored an amendment to prohibit the use of military installations, such as bases, for same-sex weddings in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act, and to require that military chaplains officiate such only ceremonies that comply with DOMA.
“This liberal agenda has infiltrated our military, where service members and chaplains are facing recrimination for their sincerely held moral and religious beliefs,” said Akin this past May. “Moral or religious concerns about same-sex marriage or the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell have become potentially career-ending. Obama’s use of the military to justify his new support for same-sex marriage will only add fuel to this fire, potentially forcing servicemembers and chaplains to violate their own conscience or face recriminations.”
His most recent comments about abortion hold the potential to upset a race where McCaskill has been trailing. As a Democrat linked to President Obama, who is unpopular in Missouri, she has been considered one of the Senate’s most endangered incumbents, but Akin’s remarks may have changed the focus of the contest.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, seized on Akin's comments to attack the top of the Republican ticket in an new fund-raising email to supporters.
"Mitt Romney famously says he would 'get rid of' federal funding for Planned Parenthood if he had the chance," she wrote. "His running mate, Paul Ryan, was one of more than 200 Republican cosponsors of a piece of legislation that would have narrowed the definition of rape."