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Congressman Akin's "Legitimate Rape" Comments Spark Controversy

On a local Missouri TV station on Sunday, Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) claimed that "legitimate rape" does not lead to pregnancy. Akin's claims have prompted outcries from both sides of the aisle, and caused increased scrutiny on the Romney-Ryan ticket's stance on abortion access.

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," Akin said to KTVI-TV. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume 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." [Emphasis added]

This is not the first time Akin has trivialized rape. Last year Akin and current GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan were two of the original co-sponsors of the controversial "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." Federal law already prohibits the use of Medicaid funds (as well as all other government funds) from paying for abortions, but existing regulations make an exception for women who are raped. The proposed bill would have narrowed this exception further, allowing only women who could prove they had been "forcibly raped" to terminate their pregnancies with government funds. The public outcry against this language eventually caused it to be removed from the bill.

The Romney campaign is attempting to distance their ticket from Akin's comments. Romney said on Monday that "Congressman Akin's comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong." Although Romney and Ryan may be able to disavow Akin's claim that rape survivors do not usually get pregnant, it will be much more difficult for them to distance themselves from Akin's central point, that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including rape. Both Romney and Ryan are on record supporting personhood amendments, which ban abortion in all cases. Ryan actually co-sponsored a personhood amendment at the national level in the House. In a 2007 Presidential debate, Romney went on record stating that he would be "delighted" to sign a bill banning abortion in all cases.

The race for US Senate in Missouri between incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill and Congressman Akin is one of the most closely watched in the country, as GOP hopes for reclaiming control of the Senate hinge heavily on Akin defeating McCaskill in November. Monday morning GOP Senator Scott Brown (MA) called on Akin to drop out of the race.

In response to Akin's comments, Senator McCaskill said, "It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape. The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."

Media Resources: Think Progress 8/19/12; The Atlantic Wire 8/20/12; 8/20/12; Jezebel 8/19/12; 8/19/12

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