If Todd Akin had simply repeated his position that he’s strongly against abortion — opposed even to granting exceptions for rape and incest — his fatal interview in St. Louis would now be forgotten.
But he spoke of what he called “legitimate” rape and suggested that the physiology of a woman so accosted would protect her from pregnancy. The female body, he said, “has ways to shut that thing down.”
With that, the Republican Party began trying to shut him down.
Akin is now a pariah, clueless as to his real offense. He released an ad in which he allowed that “rape is an evil act” and apologized for “using the wrong words in the wrong way.” But later on the Mike Huckabee show he remarked that the tidal wave of outrage “does seem to be a little bit of an overreaction.”
For Democrats, especially incumbent Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Akin was the answer to many prayers. After she bought ads attracting conservatives to him in the primary Akin won the right to oppose her by defeating two other Republicans, either of whom would have beaten her easily.
Akin’s statement is prompting gleeful Democrats to point to the maladroit congressman as a window into the GOP’s supposedly dark soul. Why, even now, they say, Republicans are drafting a party platform with a pro-life plank opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest. Which is hardly news, since Republican Party activists do the same thing every four years, and then put the platform on a shelf.
Many social conservatives share the belief that the bar on abortion should be without exception, and their number includes presumptive vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who would allow an exception only in cases where the mother’s life is endangered. Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee, is pro-life, but would permit exceptions for rape and incest, and the mother’s life.
Akin’s world blew up not because his stance is similar, or because of “one word in one sentence,” as he put it in his ad. What took him to the outer edge of the political galaxy was not only the ‘legitimate’ rape quote but the suggestion that women could self-abort.
Contrary to the eager assertions of Democrats, believers in birth control by magic uterus are far from the GOP mainstream, out there with the birthers and truthers or the people who believe we are spied on by nanobots embedded in dollar bills.
It is into this world that Akin has cast himself and worse, he besmirched his own pro-life cause by seeking an intellectually sloppy way around the tough cases. The position is not mine but it’s at least logically consistent: If abortion is murder, then it’s wrong even for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
As John Podhoretz noted at the Commentary blog, Akin trivialized the moral seriousness of this view by saying, in effect, No need to worry about such dilemmas. If it’s a legitimate rape — rather than, say, a date rape — the woman can self-abort.
So if a pregnancy results, it’s probably because of an act not quite legitimately rape.
The major sources of Republican campaign funding have rightly pulled the plug on Akin, who is now using social media to beg for money. Party insiders give him little or no chance.
Akin could still leave the race if he seeks a court order by Sept. 25. But the longer he waits, the harder it becomes for any replacement candidate to deploy a credible campaign. Defeating McCaskill was seen as critical to Republican hopes for retaking the Senate and driving a wooden stake through Obamacare.
If McCaskill is re-elected, the GOP primary voters of Missouri will have joined those of Delaware, Nevada and Colorado, states where Republicans blew a chance for Senate control in 2010 by nominating candidates who were amateurs or too far-out for the general election — categories that both apply to Akin.