WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans locked in close races — from Mitt Romney to Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown — on Wednesday disavowed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s comment that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape, “that’s something God intended.” Other Republicans also immediately distanced themselves from the tea party-backed Mourdock.
The Republican hopeful told reporters Wednesday that he meant only that God creates life, and that rape is evil. But there was no taking back the remark, which suddenly pushed the issue of rape and abortion back to the political forefront just as Romney and the GOP had cut into President Barack Obama’s substantial advantage with female voters. Democrats seized on the comment and called on Romney to withdraw his endorsement for Mourdock and pull his ad now airing in Indiana on behalf of the Senate candidate.
“It is perplexing that he wouldn’t demand to have that ad taken down,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told reporters.
The campaign said the president found Mourdock’s comments “outrageous and demeaning to women” and said the assertions were “a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican President Mitt Romney would feel that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee stood by Mourdock, but GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire canceled a planned trip to campaign with the candidate Wednesday and issued a statement saying she disagreed with him. Rep. Mike Pence, who is running for governor in Indiana, also rejected the comment and urged Mourdock to apologize.
On Tuesday night, Mourdock was asked during the closing minutes of a debate whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but 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,” Mourdock said.
The state treasurer, who unseated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary, is locked in a close race with Rep. Joe Donnelly.
After the debate, he sought to clarify his comments, issuing a statement saying, “God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that he does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick.”
Mourdock’s comment recalled GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin’s remark this summer about rape and pregnancy. Akin said in an August interview that women’s bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” Republicans, led by Romney, called for Akin to abandon the race, but he refused and is pressing ahead against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.
It was unclear whether the self-inflicted political wounds by Mourdock and Akin decide their elections on Nov. 6 in Republican-leaning states. But the comments are clearly problematic for candidates like Brown, who is struggling to hold onto his seat against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
“Scott Brown is pro-choice and does not agree with the views expressed by Richard Mourdock. They do not reflect his thinking at all,” Alleigh Marre, a spokeswoman for Brown, said in a statement.
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