Akin's ill-advised comments put spotlight on gender politics.
FILE - In this Feb 18, 2012 file photo, Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri, waves to the crowd while introduced at a senate candidate forum during a Republican conference in Kansas City, Mo. Akin vowed to fight on in his embattled Senate campaign as the deadline to exit the Nov. 6 elections loomed Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, putting pressure on the Missouri congressman to abandon the race over his comments that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape."
Missouri Congressman Todd Akin's ignorant claims that the female body can reject pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape" reinforces the significance of women's reproductive issues in the 2012 campaign. The growing influence of extremist positions within the GOP ranks is an alarming threat to women's rights.
Mitt Romney opposes abortion except to save the mother's life, or in instances of rape and incest. In the wake of Akin's comments the campaign said a Romney-Ryan administration would continue to support those exceptions.
The Republican platform committee, on the other hand, seeks a constitutional amendment outlawing all abortion.
Before joining the Romney ticket, Paul Ryan had been in lockstep with Akin, with whom he's cosponsored two bills that would grant "personhood" rights to fertilized eggs. Women's rights advocates rightly fear such a law would eliminate abortion rights and ban some forms of birth control.
Ryan, Akin and several members of the Minnesota delegation -- GOP Reps. Michele Bachmann, Chip Cravaack and John Kline as well as Democrat Collin Peterson -- also cosponsored a measure that would prohibit use of taxpayer funds for abortion, except in cases of incest and "forcible" rape -- language eventually removed after public outcry.
"Forcible rape? As opposed to what? Consensual rape? Friendly rape?" the St. Louis Post-Dispatch rhetorically asked Tuesday in an editorial denouncing Akin. "Rape is rape," President Obama rightly said after Akin suggested otherwise.
Akin eventually apologized and claimed that he misspoke, but his record shows that he's long parsed words on rape and women's health in his advocacy of extreme anti-abortion views. The public should reject claims that these positions don't constitute a "war on women."
Sadly, some GOP strategists who called for Akin to drop out of Missouri's U.S. Senate race seemed more driven by the prospect of losing the election than the anti-woman ideology.
With regard to women's rights, voters need to hear from candidates on whether they embrace the backward policies of Akin and others on the far right, or if they value women's rights as much as those of men.
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