Aborted Campaign: Missouri GOP Senatorial Candidate Says ‘Legitimate Rape” Rarely Causes Pregnancies

Rep. Todd Akin had no sooner won Missouri’s GOP Senate primary this month than he seemed eager to hand over the election to incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Akin instantly became a national sensation with a shocking statement about how “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy.

When confronted on his view regarding exceptions to a ban on abortions, Akin proceeded to show how to abort a Senate campaign in record time: “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. 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.”

First there is the distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape that is too twisted to contemplate. Then there is Akin’s rather bizarre view of the female body and the existence of some type of kill switch in cases of rape within every woman.

Akin is a six-term U.S. congressman who probably could have drifted to a win in Missouri. Polls showed him a heavy favorite against McCaskill who is unpopular with many in Missouri as well as Washington. Akin, 65, was backed by former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and supported by many in the Tea Party. Akin was able to secure 36 percent of the vote against businessman John G. Brunner with 30 percent and former state treasurer Sarah Steelman with 29 percent. Steelman was the favorite of Sarah Palin and many in the Tea Party. Despite the tough primary, Akin was leading McCaskill in the polls.

That changed in a flash and he succeeded in moving a state from an expected win for the GOP into the doubtful column — assuming he does not withdraw from the race. Both Romney and Ryan have publicly criticized the comment. McCaskill appears to relish the thought of becoming the second most unpopular candidate in a two-person race. She has refused to call for Akin to step down and said that it would be a radical step to replace a candidate who just won the primary. Republicans however have lined up to condemn the statements and call for Akin to withdraw from the race.

Akin’s attempt to walk back from the comments was almost as awkward — claiming that he “misspoke” about rape. Here is the statement:

“As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. 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. 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. 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.”

Akin does not address the medical side of the comment or even explain what he meant about legitimate rape.

“Misspoke” is a remarkably flexible term to cover any statement where, according to Merriam-Webster, you can claim that you “expressed (oneself) imperfectly or incorrectly.” Of course, there remains the cause for such misspeak. It is one thing to get a date wrong or a country wrong or even a description of some past event. Here however Akin drew a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate rape and then proceeded to offer a medical claim that is almost medieval in character.

Here is the clip showing the “misspeech”:

Given the polarized situation in Missouri, this does not necessarily mean that McCaskill will win. However, with the GOP already struggling with the female vote, this is comment is likely to be played back in an endless loop. The question is the degree of pressure from the Romney campaign to get Akin to step aside given the possible drag on the ticket in November.

Source: CNN

192 thoughts on “Aborted Campaign: Missouri GOP Senatorial Candidate Says ‘Legitimate Rape” Rarely Causes Pregnancies”

  1. Gene, Harry Harrison created some of the most unlikely characters ever to grace the pages of a novel. The weird thing is, we all know versions of them in real life.

  2. OS,

    If I was going to pick one of Harry’s most beloved characters? Bill isn’t bad, but I’d have to go with “Slippery Jim” James Bolivar DiGriz a.k.a. the Stainless Steel Rat. A con man, thief and general miscreant, he was Han Solo far better and long before Han Solo.

  3. While we are on the subject of sci-fi, Harry Harrison died last week in Ireland. His book, “Make Room! Make Room!” was the basis for “Soylent Green.”

    He was best known for “Bill: the Galactic Hero.”

    They die off and are replaced, but the institution of Theyness goes on.”

    Bill’s responded, “I’m sorry I asked.”

  4. Darren, 🙂 What are you, some kind of hippie collectivist? 🙂

    Thanks for the response. The problem I see is that within the spheres of influence you mention I think most people do attempt to attain some level of control and ‘excellence’, it’s in our immediate, best interest to do so. The big picture though is left to the politicians because that’s the system we have for the big picture items, state and national policy.

    I agree that politicians aren’t saviours, it’s more a question of which devil you can sup with without losing your sole entirely because they all will take their cut, their bit of it.

  5. Yes, thank you, Gyges. That question has been eating a hole in my brain since it was posed. I thought the title was “Brainwave” but I was totally drawing a blank on the author. I was wanting to think it was Theodore Sturgeon, but I went back to banging my head on my desk after checking his bibliography. So I thank you and so does my desk.

  6. Gyges: “That sounds an awful lot like Brainwave by Poul Anderson,”

    YES! !!!!!! Thank you, I’m going to re-read that book. It was among the first Sci-Fi I read back in the day when you could order books from Ballentine (?) at .25 and .35 @ and they would send you a box of them via the mail- I LOVED those boxes hitting the porch. Wow, good times for a 10 year old in the late 50’s. 🙂

    Yes, I had the plot wrong in how it played out; now I’m going to have to find another old Sci-Fi plot to explain, as mental short-hand, what’s wrong with the world, LOL.


  7. I’m a little surprised by all the calls from conservatives for him to drop out given the last poll we’ve seen shows no difference in voting. I suppose it doesn’t hurt to distance themselves from him regardless of whether you want him to drop out or not. And, he may not have a lot of true friends among the country club/corporate conservatives that I think have the real power.

  8. mespo,

    It may not be a suicide mission for Akin. The last I heard is that he is still ahead of McCaskill in the polls…by a slim margin.

  9. Akin vowing to fight on in God’s war on the godless:

    “I want to make things absolutely clear,” [Akin} told Huckabee. “And that is, we’re going to continue with this race for the U.S. Senate. We’ve given it a lot of thought, and the first thing we thought we had to do — we had some offended some people, we tried to respond to that and let people know that we didn’t mean anybody or to take rape in any way less than very, very seriously.”

    “But following that, I’ve had a chance now to run through a primary and the [Republican] Party people said when you win the primary, we’ll be with you. Well, they were with us and then I said one word in one sentence in one day and everything changed.”

    Akin added that the “defense of the unborn” was as important to talk about as “the Obama-McCaskill-induced crisis of jobs and the economy.”

    “It’s also appropriate to recognize a creator God, whose blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the very source of American freedom,” the Republican congressman asserted. “And that part of the message, I feel, is missing. And I think that’s something that we need to encourage people and to let people remember in their hearts what it is that makes America such a great nation. And life is very much a part of that whole thing.”

    Another crusader on a suicide mission — either his or ours.

  10. Post-Akin, I propose a Sir Bedevere litmus test for all GOP candidates; just demonstrate a basic understanding and acceptance of general post-Enlightenment scientific knowledge.

    “This new learning amazes me Sir Bedevere. Explain again how sheep’s bladders may be employed to prevent earthquakes.”

    Going forward, we really need to do a better job of weeding out candidates inclined to go on television and spew medievalism all over themselves and the rest of the party.


  11. Todd Akin: The man who said too much
    The Republican Party turned on Todd Akin because he made plain their creeping extremism and political strategy
    By Sally Kohn

    When Missouri’s Republican candidate for the Senate said that “legitimate rape” rarely causes pregnancy, not only was Todd Akin echoing the extreme anti-abortion positions held by many in his party, he was exemplifying the creeping extremism within the Republican Party on women’s issues and far more. In the new, extremist Republican Party, Akin is not an aberration. He is merely the latest canary in a coalmine of crazy.

    Along with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, Akin was an original co-sponsor of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” — which, originally, narrowed the federal definition of rape to restrict the ability of women and girls to use Medicaid dollars and tax-exempt health spending accounts to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape. Akin has since said he “misspoke” in his “legitimate rape” remarks, but the legislation he and Paul Ryan sponsored similarly re-labeled rape as “forcible rape” — creepily suggesting there are other, more acceptable versions. What’s more creepy? These are not fringe opinions expressed by powerless lunatics at teeny right-wing organizations. These are the opinions of over 200 Republican members of Congress, one of whom is the party’s candidate for the United States Senate in Missouri and one of whom is the party’s candidate for Vice President.

    Yes, the Republican establishment is condemning Akin’s remarks and distancing itself from his candidacy. But let’s be clear: Akin is only guilty of saying out loud what many Republican leaders think and legislate on the basis of. Talking Points Memo has detailed other Republican leaders throughout the years who have questioned that rape can lead to pregnancy and prominent Republican leaders like Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal oppose abortions under all circumstances, including rape. Both will be speaking at the Republican National Convention next week. Moreover, the many Republicans pushing back against Akin seem more concerned with preserving the dignity of the Republican Party than protecting the dignity and rights of women who have been raped.

  12. Rep. Todd Akin’s Rape Remark At Odds With Science Of Pregnancy
    By: Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
    Posted: 08/20/2012

    When a viable sperm penetrates a viable egg inside a woman’s reproductive tract, the result is a fertilized egg that can then implant in the uterus. That fact of life is consistent regardless of how that sperm and egg met up, including whether or not the sperm was ejaculated during rape.

    That may be news to Rep. Todd Akin from Missouri who told a local television station, in explaining his stance that abortion should not be allowed even in the case of rape: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

    “Physiologically, if the sperm is in the vagina, a pregnancy can occur, regardless of the circumstances of how that sperm got there,” said Dr. Melisa Holmes, an ob-gyn and founder of Girlology, an organization that promotes healthy sexuality and communication in families.

    And though the anti-abortion Republican says he “misspoke,” Holmes says that Akin’s remark also suggests that some rapes are not “legitimate,” and this continues a harmful misconception about violence against women.

    “A rape is a rape, and a woman has the same physical and emotional consequences whether she’s raped by a stranger in a dark alley or someone she’s known for five years,” Holmes told LiveScience. “That’s one of those misperceptions that gets perpetuated and unfortunately affects women in a bad way — ‘Were you really raped, or were you at fault for part of it?'”

    Perhaps Akin is correct in thinking it’s not the easiest of tasks to get pregnant; that’s why men don’t ejaculate just one sperm and instead release nearly 100 million sperm. (Men who have fewer than 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen may have difficulty conceiving, according to a WebMD article.) That’s because few sperm survive the grueling journey from the vagina to the fallopian tubes where they can meet up with an egg. Even for those that make it, only the healthiest will penetrate, and fertilize, the egg. [11 Odd Facts About the Pregnant Body]

    Still, of the 6.7 million pregnancies in the United States every year, about half are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

    The chance of getting pregnant from one event of unprotected sexual intercourse is 5 percent on average, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

    And according to research by Holmes and her colleagues published in 1996 in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, that same rate applies to rape victims, though it’s tricky to compare these different populations.

  13. Lotta and OS,

    That sounds an awful lot like Brainwave by Poul Anderson, but I don’t think the earth goes back into the field, instead humanity as a whole decides to go through the universe doing good stuff, except for a small portion who elect to have their brain surgically restored to it’s original level of functioning.

  14. GOP Platform To Call For Constitutional Ban On Abortion: Report
    Posted: 08/21/2012

    Draft language for the 2012 Republican Party platform includes support for a constitutional ban on abortion without specifying exclusions in the cases of rape or incest, according to CNN.

    The news comes amid ongoing controversy surrounding Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-Mo.) suggestion that victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. The GOP Senate candidate running against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has faced calls to abandon his campaign from both parties despite attempting to walk back his remarks.

    Details on the party’s position also come with the Republican National Convention just one week away.

    “Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed,” the GOP platform states, according to CNN. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

  15. gbk:

    “Should the free market determine whether a woman has a right to an abortion? How do you think a woman might feel when she is forced to do something which is against her personal beliefs?”

    what does that mean? I think you are really confused. Freedom means both political and economic freedom.

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