Do Akin’s Rape Comments Put GOP Ticket In Harm’s Way?

Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Women’s Health, Politics

Aug 21, 2012

News outlets analyze the potential repercussions to Mitt Romney‘s presidential bid by the statements made by Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin. Also examined is presumptive GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s co-sponsorship of legislation with Akin, including one that would give legal protection to an embryo.

National Journal: Could Akin Damage The Top Of The GOP Ticket?
Akin and Paul Ryan, House GOP colleagues, share a voting history on abortion rights, including mutual support for a controversial measure that would define embryos as a person. They cosponsored another measure, subsequently withdrawn, that would distinguish “forcible rape” in banning abortion funding. Akin, Ryan, and Mitt Romney also back less-controversial measures, such as defunding Planned Parenthood. That broader link gives Democrats a chance to push a debate about abortion and women’s health back into the presidential race’s limelight, putting the GOP ticket on the defensive over an issue it would rather avoid and with a group of voters, females, it has already struggled to attract (Roarty, 8/21).

Politico: Mitt Romney’s Run From Todd Akin At Odds With Paul Ryan
The Romney campaign statement on Sunday keeps with the presumptive nominee’s current position on abortion, which is in support of a ban with exemptions. But it is in clear contrast to Ryan’s past embrace of a view that no pregnancy should be terminated after fertilization. Like Akin, Ryan is a co-sponsor of the “Sanctity of Human Life Act,” a so-called personhood measure that defines life as beginning at “fertilization, cloning or its functional equivalent” and empowers the federal and state governments to pass laws to protect life from that point on. The bill makes no exception for rape. Ryan has voted in favor of a restriction on federal funding for abortions — known as the Hyde Amendment — that includes exceptions when a pregnancy results from rape or incest, or endangers the life of the mother (Allen, 8/20).

ABC (Video): Todd Akin’s Rape Comments May Have Repercussions For Mitt Romney
While most of the debate over Ryan’s policies have centered on his budget and proposed Medicare reforms, Akin’s comment threatens to place the focus on social issues for Romney’s new running mate. Republicans’ eagerness to speak out against Akin may indicate that his comments tapped into a larger issue in the campaign. Democrats have previously taken aim at Romney’s socially conservative stances and their effects on women. Akin’s comments on rape threaten to distract from Romney’s message about a lagging economy and President Obama’s health care and stimulus plans, as well as blunt the buzz about Ryan’s recent selection as vice presidential nominee or the run-up to next week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Good, 8/20).

The Hill: President Obama: ‘Rape Is Rape’
President Obama on Monday called Rep. Todd Akin’s remarks about rape “offensive” and sought to tie the Republican Senate candidate to the GOP presidential ticket. “Rape is rape,” Obama said at a White House press briefing. He called Akin’s comments “way out there.” Defining rape, he said, “doesn’t make sense to the American people and doesn’t make sense to me.” “What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of which are men, making decisions that affect health of women,” Obama said (Easley and Parnes, 8/20).

The New York Times: As Romney Enjoys Ryan’s Spark, Rivals Try To Fan It
But Mr. Ryan also brings a record in Congress that sets him apart from Mr. Romney, and on Monday his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, offered a reminder of the political dangers that sometimes come from embracing a running mate and his record. Already, Mr. Ryan’s proposals to change Medicare had drawn attacks from President Obama and his Democratic allies. The ticket was forced to address abortion after Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, said in an interview on Sunday that women’s bodies had ways to block unwanted pregnancies (Shear and Gabriel, 8/20).

The Texas Tribune: Unlike Romney, State Leaders Oppose Abortion After Rape
The state’s Republican leaders are at odds with the presumptive GOP presidential ticket on one key element of abortion politics — whether they oppose the procedure for victims of rape. Mere hours after U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and an ardent opponent of abortion in almost all cases, made comments on Sunday suggesting that women’s bodies would naturally reject pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape,” Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan released a statement distancing themselves from him. They said their administration “would not oppose abortion in instances of rape” (Ramshaw, 8/21).

Meanwhile, doctors challenge Akin’s views –

St. Louis Beacon:  Experts On Reproduction Challenge Akin’s Views On Pregnancy Following A Rape
Science and research don’t seem to be on the side of Rep. Todd Akin when he argues that rapes rarely result in pregnancies. … Hile points to one often quoted study, in the journal Human Nature, which concludes that the incidence of pregnancies growing out of rapes was twice as high as other pregnancies. The authors of that study found that “even before adjusting for birth control usage, per-incident rape-pregnancy rates (6.42 percent) are notably higher than per-incident consensual pregnancy rates (3.1 percent)” (Joiner, 8/20).

Kansas City Star: Doctors Dispute Akin’s Claim, But Some Supporters Say It Was Misunderstood
Michael Weaver, an emergency medicine physician at St. Luke’s Hospital and medical director of the forensic care program at St. Luke’s Health System, said Akin was wrong. “To try to be able to say that anyone’s going to respond in a consistent pattern that’s going to limit their probability of becoming pregnant is ridiculous,” Weaver said. But Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association — a nonprofit that describes itself as a pro-family organization — told The Star on Monday that “fair-minded people” know what Akin really meant by his statement. Wildmon speculated that Akin was differentiating between forcible rape and statutory rape, which can be consensual (Shastry, 8/20).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.


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