On August 19, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin inadvertently thrust the perennial issue of abortion into the center of this election season.
The staunchly pro-life Akin was then posed with the same challenge with which all opponents of abortion have had to reckon at some time or another: Is abortion morally permissible in the instance of rape? It was then that he drew what has since become an infamous distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” forms of rape as he tried to circumvent the question by insinuating that pregnancy rarely occurs when intercourse is non-consensual.
Throughout the week, Akin has been pummeled by Democrats and Republicans — but more so by the latter. From Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to GOP strategist Karl Rove, from nationally syndicated columnist Ann Coulter to radio and television host Sean Hannity, the chorus of Republican voices calling for Akin to withdraw from the Senate race has reached a deafening pitch.
Although Democrats seem to believe that they have a winning issue here, it is questionable whether either Democrats or Republicans stand to gain much from having abortion at the center of national attention. And it is more than a bit possible that they both have much to lose from this turn of events.
The Republican Party styles itself as being the party of “life.” Indeed, its official plank includes a statement that affirms “the sanctity of human life” of “the unborn child” and its “fundamental individual right to life,” a right that “cannot be infringed.”
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Photo of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.): AP Images