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Ear to the Ground

Todd Akin: Women Can’t Get Pregnant From ‘Legitimate Rape’

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Posted on Aug 19, 2012

If Republicans are trying to dispel the notion that there is a GOP-fueled “war on women,” they are failing miserably. The latest affront to females by a Republican came courtesy of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, who on Sunday claimed that women hardly ever get pregnant from “legitimate rape.”

(Caution: The video and full quote below contains comments that can be categorized as legitimately dumb.)

Here’s the full quote from Akin:

From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. 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.

According to Akin, that a woman’s uterus somehow magically knows the difference between “legitimate rape” and “whatever else Akin would compare it to” is just science. Never mind the fact that roughly 32,000 women are impregnated each year due to being raped. That’s just plain scary coming from a man who sits on the House Science Committee. 

(But at least he didn’t suggest, as Idaho state Sen. Chuck Winder did earlier this year, that some women use rape as an excuse in order to get an abortion.) 

Akin tried to backtrack after a firestorm of outrage erupted over his controversial comments, claiming he misspoke. His campaign released a statement that did little to clarify what Akin actually meant, nor did it define the differences between what the congressman believes is “legitimate rape” versus what he views as “non-legitimate rape.” The statement reads in part: 

It’s clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing missing from the statement is an apology; Nowhere does Akin actually say he’s sorry for the remark.

Lest you think this is an isolated incident from Akin, rest assured, his abortion position is extreme. This is the same man who once voted in favor of an anti-marital rape law, but only after airing his concern that it could be used “as a tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband” in the case of a nasty divorce. More recently, he co-sponsored a bill in the House that would have provided an exemption for female victims of “forcible rape” to get an abortion. It was later taken out after the inclusion of the modifier “forcible” was met with outrage by women’s groups.  Akin also repeated recently that he is adamantly against the morning-after pill because he believes that it is “a form of abortion.”

Maybe it doesn’t matter whether Akin apologizes for the controversial comments or not. The damage has already been done, and it’s unlikely that anything he says or does at this point will repair it. Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, are distancing themselves from Akin and voicing their disagreement with his comments, while conservative activists have called for Akin to drop out of the Senate race.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat whom Akin is trying to unseat in the November election, said she was “stunned” when she heard the remarks.
McCaskill tweeted:

Polls show Akin leading in the race. However, according to The New York Times’ Nate Silver, Akin’s gaffe could swing the race McCaskill’s way. Meaning that McCaskill’s chances of getting re-elected have suddenly improved immensely.

If Akin is thinking about quitting the Senate race, he better decide quickly. The deadline to drop out is this Tuesday at 5 p.m.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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