A US congressman has announced a new way for women to prevent unwanted pregnancy. All they have to do is be “legitimately raped,” and a natural conception-blocking mechanism will kick in, Missouri's Todd Akin told an interviewer.
Representative Akin, who is hoping to unseat incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in November, was asked during an interview with local Fox affiliate KTVI whether he believed women had the right to have an abortion if the pregnancy was the result of a rape.
Akin responded by saying that the likelihood of becoming pregnant after rape was low.
“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, if it’s a legitimate rape, that’s really rare,” he told host Charles Jaco. “The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Nevertheless, he ruled out abortion in case a woman does become pregnant after all.
“The punishment ought to be on the rapist, and not in attacking the child,” he stressed.
Akin’s opponent in the race pounced on the conservative congressmen’s comments.
“As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM,” Senator McCaskill tweeted.
In an e-mailed statement, McCaskill also noted that “it is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape,” adding that the ideas Akin expressed about rape and the impact it has on its victims were “offensive.”
Even presidential hopeful Mitt Romney distanced himself from Akin, with his campaign saying that he and his running mate Paul Ryan disagree with the statements. The Republican candidate’s spokesperson Andrea Saul also stressed a Romney administration would not oppose abortion in cases of rape.
Akin later released a statement of clarification.
“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,” he stated.
He also used the opportunity to reiterate his stance on the original question, saying the zygote conceived in a rape was the act's second victim.
“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,” Akin stated.
The representative, who has been consistently ranked as one of the most conservative congressmen in the House since the beginning of his service in 2001, was able to clinch the Republican nomination for Missouri’s Senate seat earlier this month after running a series of ads in which talk show host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee lauded him for being a “a courageous conservative” who “defends the unborn.”
He was also endorsed by a number of Christian leaders, and has been seen as the candidate of the evangelical right. McCaskill has also warned voters that if elected, Akin would restrict senior citizens' access to health care, as he would for young people trying to obtain education.