Obama upbraids senate candidate over rape comments


The president tells Todd Akin “rape is rape” after the congressman claims victims of “legitimate rape” have a mechanism that prevents pregnancy, writes LARA MARLOWEin Washington

BARACK OBAMA yesterday publicly upbraided a Republican congressman and senatorial candidate who claimed that the bodies of women who are the victims of “legitimate rape” have a defence mechanism that prevents them getting pregnant.

“The views expressed were offensive,” Mr Obama said of remarks made by Representative Todd Akin on Sunday.

“Rape is rape. The idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.”

Mr Akin co-sponsored legislation in the House last year that would have withheld government assistance from women seeking to end pregnancies resulting from rape unless the victim could prove that the rape was “forcible”.

Representative Paul Ryan, who is now the Republican vice presidential nominee, supported the “forcible rape” Bill and co-sponsored a “personhood” law that could criminalise abortion.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Mr Akin told a local affiliate of Fox News on Sunday. “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Mr Akin had been favoured to defeat Democratic senator Claire McCaskill in conservative Missouri in November. He yesterday refused to drop out of the race, saying: “The good people of Missouri nominated me, and I’m not a quitter ... To quote my old friend John Paul Jones: ‘I’ve not yet begun to fight.’”

Later in the day, the Republican party announced that it would not contribute any money to Mr Akin’s campaign and warned that he endangered their chances of retaking a majority in the Senate.

A significant majority of women voters prefer Mr Obama to the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, a gender gap that could widen with Mr Akin’s comments. “A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” the campaign announced.

Mr Obama supports women’s freedom of choice and access to safe and legal abortion. He said the Akin episode “underscores why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women.”

Referring to his campaign’s demand that Mr Romney release 10 years of tax returns, Mr Obama told an impromptu press conference at the White House he never suggested Mr Romney acted illegally.

“But the one year of tax returns that he disclosed indicated that he used Swiss bank accounts,” Mr Obama continued. “Well, that may be perfectly legal. But I suspect if you ask the average American, ‘Do you have one and is that part of how you manage your tax obligations?’ they would say No. They would find that relevant information.”

Mr Obama quoted Mr Romney’s father saying: “The reason I put out 10 or 12 years is because any single year might not tell you the whole story.”

There was a long tradition of presidential candidates releasing documents for multiple years. “The American people have assumed that if you want to be president of the United States, that your life’s an open book when it comes to things like your finances,” Mr Obama said.

Syria was “a very tough issue” where “the likelihood of a soft landing seems pretty distant”, Mr Obama said.

The US has already spent $82 million on humanitarian assistance and will spend more. It is consulting with the opposition “in thinking about how would a political transition take place”, in particular with regard to minority rights and human rights.

Asked whether he had ordered US forces to take control of Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons, Mr Obama said: “I have at this point not ordered military engagement.” However, he added: “The point... about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel...

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised ... There would be enormous consequences ... That would change my calculations significantly.”