Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, said today that women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” don’t necessarily get pregnant because their bodies have a way to “shut that whole thing down.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat defending the seat and a former prosecutor, replied in a statement today: “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.”
Akin’s comments were aired in an interview today with St. Louis television station KTVI, in which he was asked about possible exceptions for any ban against abortion. “What about in the case of rape?” television show host Charles Jaco asked.
“Well, you know, people always want to try and make that as one of those things,” Akin said, asking “how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question?”
“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said. “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. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Akin issued a statement on his campaign Web site following widespread media coverage of his televised remarks.
“In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, 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,” Akin’s statement said. “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.”
“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue,” he added. “But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election.”
McCaskill is pointing to another instance in which Akin, a co-sponsor of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act in 2011, attempted to distinguish between “forcible rape” and rape generally. The Hyde Amendment, named for former Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, prevents federally funded programs from covering abortions, with exceptions in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the woman is threatened. The bill that Akin supported would limit that exception to “forcible rape.”
McCaskill also is pointing to a study published in “Human Nature” in 2003 finding that rape is more likely to result in pregnancy than consensual sex.
“Is a given instance of rape more likely to result in pregnancy than a given instance of consensual sex?” the Journal reported. “This paper undertakes a review and critique of the literature on rape-pregnancy. Next, it presents our own estimation, from U.S. government data, of pregnancy rates for reproductive age victims of penile-vaginal rape. Using data on birth control usage from the Statistical Abstract of the United States, we then form an estimate of rape pregnancy rates adjusted for the substantial number of women in our sample who would likely have been protected by oral contraception or an IUD. Our analysis suggests that per-incident rape-pregnancy rates exceed per-incident consensual pregnancy rates by a sizable margin, even before adjusting for the use of relevant forms of birth control.”
McCaskill is facing a tough re-election campaign, which includes TV ads aired in her state by a Republican-allied committee attempting to tie her with President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — “Obama-Claire,” the Crossroads-GPS ad calls it.