The 2012 campaign season came to be defined by Republican candidates making out of touch, often medically inaccurate comments about sexual assault, women’s reproductive systems, and abortion rights. Between legitimate rape, God-given rape, and emergency rape, anti-choice politicians rushed to clarify their narrow view of sexual assault and their position that rape survivors don’t deserve access to legal abortion rights. But it turns out that strategy didn’t play well with yesterday’s voters, who didn’t elect any of the five Republican candidates who made the biggest gaffes in this area:
Todd Akin (R-MO)
Akin kicked off the recent focus on rape and abortion with his assertion that rape survivors don’t need access to legal abortion services because victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant, since the female body “has ways of shutting that whole thing down.” Later, he tried to clarify his statements by explaining that he chose to use the word “legitimate” to reflect the fact that women sometimes make false claims about being raped. Akin lost his Senate bid to his Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill, who condemned his comments about sexual assault.
Richard Mourdock (R-IN)
Mourdock sparked controversy when he suggested that women who become impregnated through rape should not have legal abortion access because their pregnancies are “a gift from God.” The same week Mourdock made his comments, Mitt Romney cut an ad for him to endorse him in his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Joe Donnelly (D) narrowly defeated Mourdock in the Senate race in Indiana.
Linda McMahon (R-CT)
During her run for a Senate seat in Connecticut, McMahon attempted to convince voters that she was a moderate, pro-choice Republican — but that attempt fell flat once she revealed that she believes Catholic hospitals should be able to deny emergency contraception from rape victims as a matter of “separation of church and state.” She tried to backtrack her statements by saying that she meant that Catholic churches, not hospitals, should be exempt from providing Plan B in cases of “emergency rape.” McMahon lost to her Democratic opponent Chris Murphy by more than 10 points.
Tom Smith (R-PA)
Smith attempted to explain his position on denying rape survivors the access to abortion services by saying that he can personally relate to the situation because his daughter had a child out of wedlock. According to the Pennsylvania Senate candidate, a woman who has a child out of wedlock that resulted from consensual sex and a woman who has a child that was conceived from rape both have a “similar effect” on their fathers. Smith lost his race to the Democratic incumbent, Bob Casey.
John Koster (R-WA)
Koster clarified his position on abortion access for victims of sexual assault by casually noting that he is opposed to legal abortion in cases of “the rape thing.” Koster argued that providing full reproductive rights to women who have become pregnant from rape would only serve to “put more violence on a woman’s body.” Koster was defeated in his campaign to represent Washington state’s first congressional district by Democrat Suzan DelBene.
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