Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin’s controversial comments about abortion Sunday have caused a rift among Republicans a week before GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan even step on the convention stage in Tampa, Florida next week. From the New York Times:
Asked in an interview on a St. Louis television station about his views on abortion, Mr. Akin, a six-term member of Congress who is backed by Tea Party conservatives, made it clear that his opposition to the practice was nearly absolute, even in instances of rape.
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “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 of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
The comments, made during an interview with KTVI-TV that was posted on Sunday on the station’s Web site, provoked howls of outrage from Democrats and women’s rights organizations. Senator Claire McCaskill, the Democrat who will face Mr. Akin in the November election, immediately took to Twitter with a blunt response. “As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases,” she wrote, “I’m stunned by Rep Akin’s comments about victims this AM.”
Mr. Akin quickly backtracked from his taped comments, saying he “misspoke.”
That wasn’t good enough for some critics – including GOP Sen. Scott Brown, who is fighting against consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren to keep his seat in Massachusetts. Brown said Akin should drop out of the Missouri Senate race because of the “outrageous, inappropriate and wrong” comments. “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking,” said Brown, CNN reports. “Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri.”
The comment has also created some daylight between Romney and Ryan. Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg issued a statement Sunday night 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.”
But, CNN reports:
The issue is particularly sensitive for Ryan, a devout Catholic and staunch anti-abortion politician who has previously expressed opposition to abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is endangered.
A Romney-Ryan campaign official, speaking on condition of not being identified, confirmed to CNN that Ryan’s personal view opposes abortion in the case of rape. The campaign official said Ryan’s stance differed with Romney’s view, which was described in the statement Sunday and is the formal position of the GOP presidential ticket.
Democrats immediately challenged the Romney-Ryan team on the issue.
“They’ve been trying to distance themselves from it — but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women’s ability to make their own health care decisions,” said a statement by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “This kind of ‘leadership’ is dangerously wrong for women.”….
Now, Romney and Ryan will face questions about the volatile abortion issue and women’s rights, giving President Barack Obama and Democrats an opportunity to further strengthen their advantage with women voters — a demographic that already favors them, according to the polls.