I'm sure by now you know about this:
Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri who is running against Sen. Claire McCaskill, justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of "legitimate rape" have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.Akin now claims he "misspoke" -- but he was basing his comments on a belief in the impossibility (or near-impossibility) of pregnancy through forcible rape that's been widespread on the right for decades. (I reviewed the history of this notion back in January 2011; Garance Franke-Ruta has a more thorough history here.)
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Evan McMorris-Santoro of Talking Points Memo has said that Akin's comments will put pressure on Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan -- even though Romney and Ryan have said they disagree with Akin -- because Ryan effectively signed on to Akin's theory not long ago:
Ryan and Akin ... were co-sponsors of H.R. 3, the 2011 bill that would have limited the federal abortion coverage exemption only to victims of "forcible rape" and women whose physical health was in danger from her pregnancy, closing a supposed loophole in health-of-the-mother exemptions conservatives have been crowing about for years.But the mainstream press doesn't want to talk about that Akin-Ryan link. The New York Times tells us that Akin is an outlier, condemned by both parties:
After massive vocal protest from women’s rights advocates, the sponsors dropped the "forcible rape" language from the bill, giving up their quest to redefine rape in the federal code with little explanation.
In an effort to explain his stance on abortion, Representative Todd Akin, the Republican Senate nominee from Missouri, provoked ire across the political spectrum on Sunday by saying that in instances of what he called "legitimate rape," women's bodies somehow blocked an unwanted pregnancy.Not a word about Ryan's co-sponsorship of H.R. 3. Not a word from The Washington Post(which also describes Akin's belief as "one that pops up occasionally in social conservative circles," although, as Franke-Ruta and I make clear, it's more than occasional). Nothing about Ryan's sponsorship of the Akin bill at CNN, the L.A. Times, or NPR.
Mike Talboy, the Democratic minority leader in the Missouri Legislature, said that he had spoken to members of both parties about Mr. Akin’s comments and had found uniform outrage.
"Nobody has defended him," Mr. Talboy said. "That, I think, is pretty telling."
The ticket is being shielded.
I don't think it's out of favoritism toward Romney and Ryan, however. I think the mainstream press, as usual, is in denial about how deeply rooted GOP craziness is. Emotionally, the mainstream press needs to believe that the GOP is a sane party. What Akin said simply has to be anomalous.
Maybe Democrats will succeed in tying Ryan to this -- but I doubt it. The standard-bearers of the GOP simply can't be nutjobs -- that would be unbearable for the press. So the press will issue its Pinocchios and declare any attempt to demonstrate the link to be hyperbolic and a low blow.
UPDATE: Sarah Kliff, one of Ezra Klein's blogging partners at The Washington Post's Wonkblog, also runs through the history of this idea. That's good. What's not so good is that she mentions H.R. 3 and never notes the identity of its (now) most famous co-sponsor:
Akin ... was among the 227 co-sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.)Um ... no mention of the fact that Paul Ryan was also a co-sponsor, Sarah? Why not?
That legislation, as initially written, who have prohibited federal funding for abortion except in cases of incest or "forcible rape." That last term quickly-turned heads: It had the potential to significantly curtail Medicaid's ability to pay for an abortion for certain rape victims. Those who faced a statutory rape, where one party was too young to consent, could be left out.
That language was, much like Akin’s Sunday remarks, walked back in the face of public outcry. The legislation was revised within days to include an exception for all rape victims.