OutFront tonight: a migraine for Republicans.
A little-known congressman from Missouri has thrown his party for a loop. Instead of talking about the economy or Medicare tonight, everyone is once again talking about social issues – specifically, abortion.
Republican Congressman Todd Akin, who's running for senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill, says he's not stepping aside despite widespread outrage over his assertion that in the case of "legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut [pregnancy] down," the justification for his opinion that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape.
Today, Akin tried to backtrack, calling his statement "ill-conceived" saying he used the "wrong word." It's hard to know, though, which "wrong word" he's referring to. Rare? Legitimate? Rape is never legitimate – the FBI says that one forcible rape occurs every 6.2 minutes in this country. And the female body absolutely doesn't "shut down" in those cases – a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimates that 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year, pretty much the opposite of rare.
Both parties jumped on Akin's comments, with both President Obama and Mitt Romney condemning them. But Democrats were quick to tie this into the battle over the coveted women's vote – DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said that the Republican Party positions on women's health are "dangerously wrong."
Now, this is not a small problem for Mitt Romney. He currently trails President Obama by 8 points among women voters, which matters because they made up 53% of the electorate in 2008 and went for Obama 56% to 43%. Additionally, Democrats have been linking Akin's comments to man-of-the-hour Paul Ryan, who co-sponsored a "personhood" amendment with Akin in 2011 that made no exception for rape victims.
Whether Rep. Akin will step down from the senate race remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – the fight over the female vote will go right up to election day.