by Suevon Lee, ProPublica.
A Missouri congressman’s startling remarks about “legitimate rape” and pregnancy have set off a torrent of criticism from his fellow Republicans as well as from Democrats. And the episode has made the abortion issue an unwelcome focus for GOP candidates nationwide.
Key leaders in the Republican Party, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are urging Rep. Todd Akin to surrender the Republican nomination for the Missouri Senate seat now held by Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who until now has been looking very vulnerable. As of Tuesday afternoon, Akin was holding fast to the nomination, despite backlash from party members and the irritating distraction for the top of the ticket.
Some political and religious spokespeople were expressing support for Akin. The Washington Post also pointed out that others in the past have embraced Akin’s assertion that the trauma of rape can block pregnancy.
By now, Akin’s words — since disavowed — are etched in the public consciousness: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, said Sunday while interviewed on a St. Louis television station. The congressman later apologized, saying he “misspoke” and that “rape is never legitimate.”
The GOP party platform, which is staunchly pro-life, has not come out in favor of an abortion exemption in cases of rape or incest. Neither the 2004 nor 2008 platforms included such exceptions. News reports state that language of the 2012 platform, heading to a vote next week at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, will similarly stay silent on these circumstances.
What these platforms do include is support for a “human life amendment” to the Constitution that would bestow variously defined legal rights on human embryos.
(In contrast, the Democratic Party has expressed a firmer pro-choice stance in recent years, stating in 2008 that it “strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion” while in 2004, it stated that abortion “should be safe, legal, and rare.”)