President Obama condemned Rep. W. Todd Akin, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, for asserting that "legitimate rape" victims rarely get pregnant, and he used the incident to blast GOP rival Mitt Romney's and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan's views on abortion.
Responding to a question about Mr. Akin's comments over the weekend during the president's first press conference in eight weeks, Mr. Obama said male lawmakers shouldn't get involved in trying to control women's health care decisions or parse the differences between different types of rape.
"The views expressed were offensive," Mr. Obama told reporters. "Rape is rape, and the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying ... what different types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people and certainly doesn't make sense to me."
When asked whether Mr. Obama believes Mr. Akin's comments reflected an opinion widely held in the Republican party, he didn't comment directly.
"What these comments underscore is: We shouldn't have a bunch of politicians — the majority of them who are men — making [health] decisions on behalf of women," he said. "And that's the significant difference in approach" between the Obama and the Romney campaigns.
When asked if Mr. Akin should bow out of the race, Mr. Obama left it up to Republicans.
"He was nominated by the Republicans in Missouri," he said. "I'll let them sort that out."
The Obama campaign went further than the president in trying to link Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan to Mr. Akin's views.
In an interview with the Huffington Post on Monday, Mr. Obama's senior campaign adviser, David Axelrod, said Mr. Ryan had teamed up with Mr. Akin on abortion measures and specifically on measures trying to limit the definition of forcible rape.
"When you look at who Akin's partner was on all the anti-choice legislation, it was Paul Ryan," Mr. Axelrod said.
"When you look at the legislation that would limit a woman's right to choose, even for victims of rape and incest, that is the Akin-Ryan position. And frankly, by endorsing personhood amendments … Romney has gone there, too. This is the prevailing position of the Republican Party."
Mr. Axelrod said Mr. Akin's comments came at a particularly inopportune time for Mr. Romney, a week after Mr. Ryan's selection as his running mate.
"They are trying to run away from what has been their own position, and yet, while Akin's proposition was particularly egregious and outrageous, on the underlining principle of whether you are going to limit a woman's right to choose, and how rape victims are dealt with and how they would approach this issue, they are very much in line with him," Mr. Axelrod added.
Late last year, Mr. Romney came under scrutiny for seeming to have endorsed a fetal personhood amendment in Mississippi, which would have established a fertilized egg as a person under the law. Mr. Romney, however, said he never supported that measure explicitly but simply had expressed his belief that life begins at conception.
When speaking about Mr. Ryan and Mr. Akin teaming up on anti-abortion legislation, Mr. Axelrod specifically was referring to the two lawmakers' co-sponsorship of the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" — a version of which stated that only in instances of "forcible rape" would a woman be able to have her abortion covered by insurance. The final bill, however, had exceptions for the life of the mother, incest and all instances of rape, and Mr. Ryan played no role in trying to add the "forcible rape" language, a Romney campaign spokesman said.
Saying that the two "teamed up" on the bill is wildly misleading. Rep. Christopher H. Smith, a New Jersey Republican who is a major anti-abortion advocate, was the main sponsor of that measure, and Mr. Akin and Mr. Ryan were two of 227 co-sponsors. The bill passed the House last year, but it died in the Senate.
"This is another in a string of false attacks by the Obama campaign," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement Monday. "Mitt Romney's position is clear: he is pro-life. He opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. The Obama campaign is attempting to scare voters with false charges in an effort to distract from President Obama's litany of failures in office."
Mr. Romney on Monday rebuked Mr. Akin for making the comments, calling them "insulting, inexcusable and, frankly, wrong."
"Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive," Mr. Romney told National Review Online, noting that his view is "entirely different" and Mr. Akin's remarks were "entirely without merit and he should correct it."
He did not call on Mr. Akin to end his campaign.
Mr. Romney's comments Monday were stronger than spokeswoman Andrea Saul's response the day before, when she said Mr. Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, "disagree" with Mr. Akin and "would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
Mr. Akin, who is running to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, set off a national furor Sunday when he told a local television station that he had talked to doctors and believes pregnancies resulting from rape are "really rare."
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said. "But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
He since has said he misspoke and now understands that women can get pregnant by rape.
© Copyright 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.