One of the top pro-life political groups says it will change the way it endorses candidates following the national dustup over comments Missouri Republican candidate Todd Akin made during a Senate debate.
Akin drew national controversy over his comments about women and rape after attempting to support his position against abortion in such cases but making a scientifically inaccurate statement that made him a national laughingstock.
“From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” he said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, participated in a press conference this afternoon in which she talked about changes the pro-life women’s group is making:
“We think that women are great spokeswomen, they’re natural spokeswomen — that’s why we have an emphasis on electing women as pro-life leaders,” Dannenfelser said. “In addition to that, how we talk about that and how we communicate it in a compassionate and true way — without fear — is vitally important.”
“With Akin, when asked about rape, there’s only one thing you should say: ‘what a horrible tragedy,’” she said. “He clearly could have used a little bit of debate prep before he made that statement.”
As a result, the SBA List is going to spend time training future high-profile candidates before giving them an endorsement.
“We go through and I drill you on all the questions, all the tough things, and then you give it back to me,” Dannenfelser said in describing the process they will likely adopt. “And then we see if that actually merits endorsement or not, because if you can’t handle a rape question after everything that we just went through and all the damage that that caused, then you’re not paying attention and you don’t care enough to figure it out.”
Polling data makes it clear the rape comment cost Akin the election.
Tuesday’s early exit polls show just 51 percent of Missouri voters say they believe abortion should be legal all or most of the time. Of those voters, exit polls show 76% supporting Akin’s opponent, pro-abortion Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill while 19% voted for Akin. Forty-seven percent of Missouri’s voters say abortion should be illegal and Akin lost 27 percent of the pro-life vote.
As AP noted, “There’s no doubt about it: Akin’s remark that women’s bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy after “legitimate rape” turned off many Missourians, bolstering the case that it sunk the Republican’s chances. Nearly two-thirds of voters said that, at the very least, they gave the comment some consideration in the voting booth – and those who did overwhelmingly sided with McCaskill by a rate of almost three to one. Close to 70 percent of women said Akin’s remark on rape and abortion in an August television interview was important to their decision, and Akin couldn’t get the majority of men to look past that race-turning moment, either.”
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Still, Sen. Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, claimed the rape comments didn’t help Democrats win Missouri.
“We always said we were going to put ourselves in a position to seize upon Republican missteps and we did,” Murray said on a conference call. “But offensive comments from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did not decide this election. It was a result of hard work and critical strategic decisions over many months.”
Naturally. Murray hopes future pro-life Republican candidates will make similar stumbles.