Usually, we’ll give our side something of a pass when it comes to outrageous statements. Let’s face it: Many politicians are not the brightest bulbs in the room and most of them don’t know when to shut up.
But this response to a question about abortion and rape from Republican Senate candidate in Missouri Todd Akin is close to being the most ignorant and damaging statement I’ve ever heard a politician utter:
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.
This isn’t a gaffe. It’s a nuclear bomb.
First of all, it is an extremist position to state that there can be no abortion in the case of rape or incest. A majority of pro-life advocates do not take that position, and certainly most Americans don’t. A Gallup poll from May shows only 20% of Americans support a “no exceptions” abortion policy.
Second, I was surprised to learn that this belief in “legitimate rape” (someone tell me how to define “illegitimate rape”) and the mother’s magical, mystical ability to “shut that whole thing down” is actually not something this goofball pulled out of his hat:
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.
How bad is it for Akin? It’s not good. The formerly very beatable incumbent Claire McCaskill should now be considered the favorite. By the time election day rolls around, every Missourian will have seen that statement several times. And while Akin may have locked up the anti-abortion vote with his outburst, he did himself no good with the vast majority of Missourians who believe that no woman or girl should have to bear the fruit of such a traumatic crime as rape or incest.