Pennsylvania Republican Likens Rape Pregnancy to Out-of-Wedlock One

Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Photo

Republican Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. candidate Tom Smith.

Another Republican Senate candidate has waded into the contentious issue of pregnancy caused by rape, comparing the birth decision to be made in such cases to whether a child conceived out of wedlock should be aborted.

The comments by Tom Smith, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Bob Casey in Pennsylvania , came as he sought to explain his opposition to abortion in all cases, including rape and incest. He and his campaign later sought to clarify that he didn’t intend to make the comparison.

Smith’s comments also came eight days after another Republican Senate nominee, Todd Akin of Missouri, spotlighted the abortion issue by saying “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy.

Smith made his comments today in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in answering a question about how he would respond if a rapist impregnated his daughter or granddaughter, according to the Associated Press.

“I lived something similar to that with my own family, and she chose the life, and I commend her for that,” Smith said to reporters at the Pennsylvania Press Club, the AP reported. “She chose the way I thought.”

He said the similarity was that the family member had “a baby out of wedlock.”

On a follow-up question, Smith sought to clarify his comments, saying he wasn’t comparing decisions raised by rape and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.

“No, no, no, but, well, put yourself in a father’s position,” he said. “Yes, I mean, it is similar, this isn’t, but I’m back to the original, I’m pro-life
— period.”

His communications director,  Megan Piwowar,  wrote in a statement: “Tom Smith is committed to protecting the sanctity of life and believes it begins at conception. While his answers to some of the questions he faced at the Pennsylvania Press club may have been less than artful, at no time did he draw the comparison that some have inferred. When questioned if he was drawing that comparison, Tom’s answer was clear, ‘No, no, no.’ ”

Akin apologized for his Aug. 19 comments while rejecting calls from party leaders, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, that he drop out of the race against Senator Claire McCaskill. She had been rated by political analyst Charlie Cook as one of this election’s most endangered Democratic incumbents, though polls since Akin’s comments have shown her leading him.

Smith is the underdog in his race against Casey, a rare Democratic lawmaker who opposes abortion and has called for Roe vs. Wade — the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing the procedure nationwide — to be overturned. A poll released today by the Philadelphia Inquirer shows Casey leading Smith by 19 percentage points.

Republicans gathered in Tampa for their party’s national convention this week insist that ultimately November’s election will turn on the economy, not on social issues. The top three issues, Virginia delegate Barbara Comstock said at a Bloomberg Insider magazine breakfast today, are all the same — “economy and jobs.”

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