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Republican Senate candidate: victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant

I remember when you could generally count on a candidate for the US Senate chosen by the Republican voters of a state to be reasonably thoughtful and rational– even when you fundamentally disagreed with him or her.

After several recent contrary examples– not limited to Christine O’Donnell in Delaware (who lost) and Rand Paul in Kentucky (who actually won)– my faith has been shaken. (OK, the Democrats nominated a rather dodgy candidate in South Carolina, but the party there is extremely weak and there were no serious Democratic candidates.)

So who have the Republican voters of Missouri nominated to challenge Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in November? It’s Congressman Todd Akin, who justified his opposition to abortion rights in cases of rape by explaining that victims of “legitimate rape” (yes, he actually said that) are unlikely to become pregnant.

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim.

“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
A 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and is “a cause of many unwanted pregnancies. The study found an estimated “32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year.”

Akin is perhaps the boldest among a crop of conservative 2012 nominees who could hamper GOP efforts to take back the Senate in the fall. Akin has called for an end to the school-lunch program and a total ban on the morning-after pill.

Update: Akin says he “misspoke,” and then tries to change the subject to unemployment and deficits.

Further update: The Romney-Ryan campaign gingerly distanced itself from Akin’s remarks:

“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement,” the Romney campaign said in statement. “A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”

Before Romney picked him as his running mate, Ryan supported a ban on abortions even in cases of rape or incest.

Additional update: Oh, good. Akin is vowing to fight on.