For Democrats, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) is a gift that keeps on giving. He refuses to quit his Senate race against embattled Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) despite the bipartisan uproar over his comments about "legitimate rape" not causing pregnancy. Even as some social conservatives are chastising Mitt Romney for "throwing a pro-life congressman under the bus over a blunder," Democrats are trying to rope Akin tightly to the GOP presidential candidate, his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and the entire Republican Party. Ryan and Akin both want to ban all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, Democrats point out, and the official GOP platform calls for a similar absolute abortion ban — which Democrats are now calling the "Akin plank" or "Akin amendment." Republicans aren't amused. "There is no plank in the Republican platform about 'legitimate rape' or suggesting that rape cannot result in conception," fumes conservative columnist Phil Kerpen at Politico, so Democrats are using Akin for "a false and deceptive smear" of the GOP. Are Democrats unfairly "Akin-izing" the GOP?
Yes. Democrats are playing dirty: Many Republicans believe, defensibly, that abortion is never justifiable, says John Hayward at Human Events. But nobody's defending "Akin's stupid, ignorant comments about the improbability of pregnancy from 'legitimate rape'." What Democrats are trying to do is conflate the issues, slanderously pursuing a "remorseless campaign" to "beam into the heads of American voters... that pro-lifers all think the way Akin does" about rape, by pointing to the principled abortion stand taken by Ryan and the GOP. If that's not a "smear," what is?
"The Akin mutation"
Akin's views are the GOP's: Akin's "fable" that rape victims' bodies can shut down pregnancy "has long been a convenient delusion on the outer reaches of the 'pro-life' Right," says Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker. But "the outer reaches and the inner circles of the Republican Party... are in substantive, if not semantic, agreement" about dividing rape into different tiers, then blocking abortion access to less "legitimate" types — say, "a middle-school girl impregnated by her uncle." That's not a popular position, but it's the GOP's. Don't blame Democrats for pointing it out.
"Todd Akin's bad word"
Both sides are playing politics: It is "a bit cowardly" for Republicans to shun "the politically unpalatable implications of the anti-abortion views central to their party," says Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post. But Democrats aren't earning any medals for courage by focusing on "a tiny subset of abortion exceptions" rather than promoting their party's view — almost as unpopular — that nearly all abortion should be legal. "As a matter of short-term political tactics, Democrats are smart not only to seize on Akin's remarks but to seek to link him with the broader GOP." In the long-term, though, the strategy won't help most women.
"On abortion, a matter of exception"
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