In an effort to explain his stance on abortion, Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri, provoked ire across the political spectrum by saying in instances of “legitimate rape”, women’s bodies somehow blocked an unwanted pregnancy.
Asked in an interview on a St Louis television station about his views on abortion, Akin, a six-term member of Congress and a favourite of Tea Party conservatives, made it clear his opposition to the practice was nearly absolute, even in instances of rape.
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “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: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
The comments, made during an interview provoked outrage from Democrats and women’s rights organisations. Senator Claire McCaskill, the Democrat who will face Akin in the November election, immediately took to Twitter with a blunt response.
“As a woman and former prosecutor who handled hundreds of rape cases, I’m stunned by Rep Akin’s comments about victims this AM,” she wrote.
Akin quickly backtracked, saying he “misspoke”.
“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,” said Akin, a member of the House science committee.
“I recognise 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.”
The Republican presidential ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan was quick to distance itself from Akin’s remarks. “Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Akin’s statement,” the campaign said. “A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”
Unsafe countries for women
Afghanistan is the world's most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, with Congo a close second due to horrific levels of rape. Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively.