With Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan scrambling to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape,” Democrats have seized on the moment to highlight what they say are Republicans’ outdated views on women.
Akin, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, told a local TV interviewer Sunday that he opposed abortion in all cases, including rape and incest, because victims of “legitimate rape” are unlikely to become pregnant.
“The female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin told KTVI.
The GOP presidential ticket, Romney and Ryan, swiftly condemned Akin, saying in a joint statement that they “disagree” with Akin’s remarks and that their administration “would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”
But Democrats said the presumptive nominee and his running mate have a history of aligning with Akin on “extreme” positions, including legislation that would have redefined rape, banned abortion in all cases and cut off funding for abortion providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
“While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are working overtime to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin’s comments on rape, they are contradicting their own records,” said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith.
“Every day, women across America grapple with difficult and intensely personal health decisions — decisions that should ultimately be between a woman and her doctor,” she said.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Akin’s comments reflect a mindset in the Republican ranks that is “literally, dangerous for women.”
“Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women’s ability to make their own health care decisions,” she said in an email blast to supporters Sunday night.
“This kind of ‘leadership’ is dangerously wrong for women — and I can’t sit by and watch as these out-of-touch Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Todd Akin continue to roll back women’s rights.”
To be sure, legislation that would redefine rape and personhood has not passed the Republican-led House; measures to strip Planned Parenthood of federal family planning grants have fallen flat in the Senate.
Republicans, unapologetic about their anti-abortion stance, also emphasize that the Romney-Ryan ticket supports exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at stake.
Senior Romney campaign strategist Stuart Stevens told ABC News that he was confident that Democratic efforts to tie Ryan to Akin through their previous work together would not stick.
He also said Romney would not call on Akin to resign or pull out of the race in Missouri, adding, “that will have to play out on its own.”
But in an interview with Manchester, N.H., ABC affiliate WMUR, Romney suggested Akin should think hard about about whether to end his Senate bid. “He should spend 24 hours considering what will best help the country at this critical time,” Romney said.
On that point, many top Democrats would agree.