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Mourdock's Rape, Abortion Remarks Escalate Tension Over Women's Issues in Presidential Race

Mourdock's Rape, Abortion Remarks Escalate Tension Over Women's Issues in Presidential Race

October 25, 2012 — Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's (R) recent statement that pregnancy resulting from rape can be "something that God intended to happen" is providing new fuel in the debate over women's health issues in the presidential race, the Washington Post reports (Tumulty, Washington Post, 10/24). Less than two weeks until the election, the remarks have given the Obama campaign another chance to tie Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to the most socially conservative wing of his party. Romney, who has endorsed Mourdock, has spent weeks distancing himself from those positions (Weisman, New York Times, 10/25).

Mourdock, Indiana's treasurer, made the comment on Tuesday in response to a debate question about whether abortion should be permitted in cases of rape and incest. Mourdock said abortion should be illegal except to save a woman's life, adding, "I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen" (Women's Health Policy Report, 10/24).

Mourdock Defends Position

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mourdock said he abhors all violence and regrets that some individuals "twisted" the meaning of his remarks. He added that he "would not apologize" and "would be less than faithful if I said anything other than life is precious, I believe it's a gift from God" (LoBianco, AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/25).

President Obama Weighs In

President Obama criticized Mourdock's remarks on Wednesday during a taping of "The Tonight Show." Obama said, "Rape is rape. It is a crime. These various distinctions about rape ... don't make any sense to me" (Epstein, "Politico 44," Politico, 10/24).

Obama said the remarks underscore why male politicians should not be solely in charge of issues related to women's health (Cooper, "The Caucus," New York Times, 10/25). "Women are capable of making these decisions in consultation with their partners, with their doctors," Obama said, adding, "And for politicians to want to intrude in this stuff, oftentimes without any information, is a huge problem. And this is obviously part of what's [at] stake .. [in] this election" ("Politico 44," Politico, 10/24).

Romney Campaign, Republicans Respond

Republicans were divided in their response to Mourdock's comments. While some noted their disagreement with the candidate, others issued statements of support (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/24).

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney denounced the comments, but he did not pull support for Mourdock's campaign. A Romney campaign official confirmed Wednesday that it has not pulled a TV advertisement in which Romney endorses Mourdock (Weiner, "Election 2012," Washington Post, 10/24). Mourdock is the only Senate candidate for whom Romney has made such an ad (Washington Post, 10/24).

'Pro-Life' Groups Reaffirm Support

Meanwhile, groups that oppose abortion rights "doubled down" on Wednesday in their support for Mourdock and his beliefs, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.

According to "Wonkblog," the different reactions from some conservative lawmakers and antiabortion-rights groups exemplify a "tension between principles and policy in the pro-life movement" (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/24).

While antiabortion-rights groups typically oppose abortion in all cases, polls show that a majority of U.S. residents think the procedure should be legal in cases of rape or incest (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/24). The disparity helps explain why efforts to ban abortion in all circumstances "have repeatedly proved politically unpalatable," according to "Wonkblog" ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/24).

Rape Survivors, Crisis Workers Troubled by 'Political Posturing'

In related news, the Daily Beast reports that rape survivors and crisis workers are bothered "by the extensive political posturing around rape," which they note "is a subject not about fundraising, public shaming, or politicians brawling to win office." Survivors and advocates also want more frank conversations about rape, rather than reactionary political and media attention to lawmakers' gaffes (Yarrow, Daily Beast, 10/25).