Rep. Todd Akin, the newly-christened GOP (Tea Party) Senate nominee in Missouri, said in an interview airing Sunday that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.
Explaining his no-exceptions policy on abortions, Akin was asked why he opposes abortion even when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in a clip posted to YouTube by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Akin added: “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.”
Akin’s statement threatens to recast a Senate race in which he starts as the favorite, but national Republicans are concerned about his ability to execute a winning strategy. Akin won the GOP nomination two weeks ago — a result that Democrats hailed as a potential game-changer in a tough race for them.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and national Democrats actually spent money in the GOP primary to help get Akin through it. That strategy, at least in this case, appears to be paying dividends.
McCaskill said she was outraged by Akin’s claim.
“As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases,I’m stunned by Rep Akin’s comments about victims this AM,” she tweeted. Within an hour, her tweet had been re-tweeted more than 1,000 times.
Akin’s claim is one that pops up occasionally in social conservative circles. A federal judge nominated by President Bush in the early 2000s had said similar things, as have state lawmakers in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Politicians and activists who espouse this view often suggest that women who haven’t been raped will claim to have been raped in order to obtain an abortion. An Idaho state lawmaker apologized earlier this year after urging doctors to make sure women who claimed they had been raped were sure of that fact.
Needless to say, this is territory that GOP leaders would rather not have Akin wander into. Getting into the particulars of “legitimate rape” (as opposed to what?) and the female reproductive system has the potential to make this a headache for the GOP and take the focus off of McCaskill and President Obama, who is unpopular in Missouri.
According to a 1996 study, approximately 32,000 pregnancies result from rape annually in the United States, and about 5 percent of rape victims are impregnated.
Akin is also staking out some of the most socially conservative territory possible on this issue. Missouri is pretty socially conservative, but even many Republicans believe in abortion exceptions for rape and incest. A recent Gallup poll showed just 20 percent of Americans believe in no exceptions for abortion.
From The Washington Post Posted by Aaron Blake