Little wonder that Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee to represent Missouri in the U.S. Senate, is trying to back away from his comments about abortion and rape. So ignorant and offensive were his remarks that members of Mr. Akin's own party, including its presidential standard-bearer, issued strong condemnations -- though it took them a while to get strong enough.
Mr. Akin was utterly unconvincing in explaining that he "misspoke." It is scary that someone so ill-informed could have a chance of becoming a senator.
The comments bear repeating, if only to underscore Mr. Akin's alarming world view. Responding to a question about whether he would ease his opposition to abortion to allow exceptions for women who have been raped, the six-term congressman said: "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."
It's idiotic, to borrow the phrase of GOP strategist Mike Murphy, to say -- citing doctors, no less -- that women's bodies contain some hidden defenses that can kick in to prevent pregnancies. The suggestion that there are different categories of rape -- some real and awful and others that are not -- is loathsome.
At first, Mr. Akin said his "off-the-cuff remarks" were a "very, very serious error" and didn't "reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year." The explanation was hard to square with the fact that opposition to abortion has been a core tenet of his time in office. Mr. Akin defied GOP calls for him to withdraw from the race.
Unfortunately, his remarks are not the first in a long-running effort to downplay rape as a way to restrict access to abortion. The Atlantic magazine catalogued how anti-abortion politicians, since at least 1988, have used the canard of "legitimate rape" or "assault rape" in efforts to restrict and outlaw abortions. They're really saying that not all rape victims are victims, and so we shouldn't worry if they have to deal with unwanted pregnancy.
One example of this effort to minimize rape came this year, when Congress considered whether to rewrite the rape exception in federal abortion funding bans by inserting the phrase "forcible rape." Among the bill's 227 cosponsors was Rep. Paul Ryan, now Mitt Romney's running mate, whom Mr. Akin said tried to persuade him to drop out of the Senate race.
The language was stripped from the bill before it won final House approval, but even then, it had such onerous provisions that it never made it to the Senate floor. Let's hope the same will be said for Mr. Akin and his unacceptable views.
-- Washington Post