Missouri Senatorial Candidate Todd Akin may have only one person left who wants him to stay in the race: his opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill. I haven't heard from his mother. I prefer to think about what someone actually says rather than merely react to the sound of it and I have learned not to depend on printed excerpts; so here is my transcription of Akin's entire offending remarks.
Charles Jaco: "If abortion can be considered in the case of a duct-tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about the case of rape, should it be legal or not?"
Todd Akin: "Well you know, people always wanta try and make that one of those things, well, how do ya, how do ya, how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question. It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors that's really rare, if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that may that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment but the punishment ought to be in the rapist and not attacking the child."
What was Akin trying to say? First, that pregnancy as a result of "legitimate" rape is rare and doesn't tell us anything about the moral status of other abortions. That is what persons who are strongly pro-life mean when they make that distinction.
The most offensive phrase in the entire paragraph is "legitimate rape," but Akin clearly doesn't mean acceptable or justified. He intends the opposite meaning: violent, non-consensual sexual intercourse. Okay, as opposed to what? At any rate, it was an extremely unfortunate choice of words.
The second thing he argued is that the female body has mechanisms to prevent pregnancy in such cases. This is an empirical question and one that would be challenge to resolve. I am inclined to doubt the proposition and more doubtful that Akins has any idea what he was talking about. Supposing it were true, how would it help his point? All it accomplished was to make him look like an insensitive buffoon.
Third, Akins takes the pure pro-life position. In the case of a pregnancy due to rape, it is the rapist who is guilty and should be punished. The unborn child is innocent and deserves the same protection as all other moral persons. Most persons who are pro-life make exceptions for at three categories of pregnancy: threats to the life of the mother, severe birth defects, and rape. Akin has every right to his position but pushing it here saves no children. All it does is to divide his own camp.
Moreover, abortion is not what this election ought to be about. Anything that distracts from the economy and the fiscal solvency of the United States hurts any cause that Akin professes to care about.
All three points are obviously subject to debate but none is scandalous, even if the second one is stupid. In politics, however, how you say something and the context in which you say it matter as much as whatever you meant. Akin's clumsy comments managed simultaneously to damage the pro-life cause which he avows, put what looked like a winning Senate campaign in jeopardy, and embarrass the Republican Party nationally.
Just because a Republican candidate for a US Senate seat says something doesn't mean that that is the position of Republicans nationally or even in Missouri. The Democrats will argue that it does, which is what I would advise them to argue were I advising them. That doesn't mean that the Republican Party can escape some responsibility for their candidate.
Republicans have come down on Akin hard to resign. Mitt Romney denounced Akin. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has yanked funding, as has Crossroads GPS, a conservative political action committee. Akin should swiftly resign and let some other Republican try for the seat. When you blow this big a hole in the dike, it doesn't matter what you were trying to say.