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POLITICS

Why Todd Akin should step aside

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein

By now, anybody who follows politics enough to be reading this post has likely heard Missouri Republican U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin’s idiotic and offensive statement when asked about whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape. In case you need a refresher, Akin said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Michelle Malkin has a good post ripping into Akin, deservedly so. A lot of the focus has been on the phrase “legitimate rape.” Was he trying to differentiate between violent/forcible rape and statutory rape? Was he suggesting marital rape or date rape aren’t legitimately rape? Was he trying to suggest that a lot of rapes are faked? His attempt to make such distinctions, to this observer, is offensive, but at the very minimum it’s unclear.

The second part of the statement, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down” is sheer idiocy with no basis in science.

The thing is, Akin’s ignorant statement was just a diversion from his main point about why he doesn’t favor allowing abortions in the case of rape. Had he said simply that rape is a horrible tragedy, but as a believer in the sanctity of human life, he doesn’t think the tragedy should be compounded by terminating an unborn child (a point he tried to make later in his comments) it wouldn’t have been nearly as big of a controversy. Also, instead of suggesting that women could magically prevent themselves from getting pregnant in the case of rape, he could have noted that only a small percentage of abortions are a result of rape. This is something that is obviously difficult to measure, especially because a lot of rapes go unreported. But a 2004 survey by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute found that 1 percent of women cited rape as a contributing factor as to why they had abortions. The point is that whatever one thinks of the position of not allowing a rape exception, in and of itself, it wouldn’t have caused major problems for him in a socially conservative state such as Missouri had he handled the question with care and sensitivity.

Politically, a lot of the analysis as to whether Akin should drop out of the race has focused on whether he could still recover from this horrendous statement and win. A more important question is what kind of senator Republicans would be getting if he could hang on and they could gain a majority in the Senate. Anybody capable of making a statement as simultaneously offensive and moronic as Akin’s is likely to make more such statements. That means, even if Akin wins, he’s likely to embarrass his party for six years and undermine the pro-life cause.

Missouri Republicans have other choices. Both Sarah Steelman and John Brunner led troubled Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill in polls taken during the GOP primary, and both were closer to the Tea Party than Akin (Steelman was endorsed by Sarah Palin). If Akin drops out of the race by tomorrow, the Missouri GOP could still pick another candidate. Akin has caused enough damage already. He should do the right thing and step aside and make room for somebody else while there’s still time.

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