Orlin Wagner / AP
Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 | 4:11 p.m.
Sen. Dean Heller added his voice to the growing chorus of Republicans calling on Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to drop his 2012 bid for the Senate, after Akin claimed that women didn’t get pregnant in cases of “legitimate rape.”
Akin was explaining to a local Fox television station in Missouri why he doesn’t believe abortions in cases of rape are necessary when he said: “From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Shock, expressions of incredulity and calls for Akin to bow out of the race have been pouring forth since the interview aired Sunday from both Democrats and Republicans. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pointedly distanced himself from Akin’s comments early Monday and later in the day National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn told Akin to take the next 24 hours to reevaluate his campaign and consider “what is best” for the GOP.
Heller echoed those sentiments Monday afternoon.
“Todd Akin’s comments were unquestionably inappropriate and absurd,” Heller said in a statement his campaign circulated Monday. “He should not be the standard bearer for the Republican Party in Missouri.”
But while Republicans are making a point of stepping away from Akin’s comments, they may get swept up in the political fallout from his bumbling of biological facts.
This isn’t the first time Washington has debated the nuances of reproduction this year. Since this spring’s brouhaha over whether employers should be required to provide insurance coverage for birth control, Democrats have been accusing Republicans of being “anti-woman” — a line of attack used often by Heller’s opponent Rep. Shelley Berkley.
Heller hasn’t opposed abortions in cases of rape or incest, but he has supported efforts to cut government funding for some organizations, like Planned Parenthood, that provide them. He also supported efforts to let companies refuse to offer contraception coverage as part of their health care plans.
As Republicans scrambled to disavow Akin, Democrats strove to play up those connections, on the national level, and in Nevada.
“Although these particular comments have led Gov. Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their health care decisions, or qualifying forcible rape versus nonforcible rape, I think those are broader issues,” President Barack Obama told reporters Monday. “And that is a significant difference in approach between me and the other party.”
“The comments by Rep. Todd Akin are outrageous and disgusting but not surprising given the many attacks against women we've seen from Washington Republicans like Sen. Dean Heller, including votes against equal pay for equal work, to restrict access to birth control and to defund Planned Parenthood,” said Berkley campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa. “This rare moment of honesty only further highlights the clear choice for Nevadans in this election between two competing philosophies on the issues that matter to women.”
How much that will matter in the race between Heller and Berkley, however, is not yet clear. Recent polls show that Democrats are already leading Republicans by a significant percentage when it comes to female voters. The most recent national poll, from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, showed Obama pulling about 54 percent of female voters as opposed to Romney, who is drawing only 39 percent.
The split between Berkley and Heller was much closer earlier this summer, however. A poll in early June from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, showed Berkley drawing 46 percent of women voters in Nevada and Heller pulling 40 percent.