Todd Akin, a former Missouri lawmaker and politician, shown here in his (later-retracted) apology for his "legitimate rape" comments in 2012.
Todd Akin, the former Republican Congressman from Missouri who torpedoed his political career with comments about "legitimate rape" in 2012, died at his home this weekend.
Akin had spent much of the past decade attempting a comeback from the disastrous August 19, 2012, interview with Fox 2, during which Akin — who had been leading in the polls against incumbent Democrat U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill — revealed he didn't know much about women, pregnancy or rape.
Answering a question from reporter Charles Jaco about his position on the use of abortion in cases of rape, Akin had responded: "What I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. 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 on the rapist and not attacking the child."
While voters turned on Akin in Missouri, nearly a decade later, his clumsy, uninformed and cruelly framed perspective on forcing women to give birth to their rapist's baby has become Missouri law:
In 2019, the state's Republican-dominated legislature approved an eight-week abortion ban without exception for rape or incest, while even more aggressive measures have been passed in other states.
As for Akin, he apologized for his comments, stating in a video uploaded two days after the interview that, "as a father of two daughters," he wanted justice for predators and had "a compassionate heart" for rape victims.
"The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy," Akin said in the apology. "The truth is, rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness."
Less than two years later, Akin disavowed his apology as he attempted to roar back into politics, telling KMOX's Mark Reardon that "We crafted an apology, not based on what I said but on what people were perceiving."
At another point in the 2014 KMOX interview, Akin said critics had wrongly interpreted his "legitimate rape" comment as proof that "Akin thinks that nobody can get pregnant through rape" — which was incorrect, Akin bafflingly argued, because "we had people on our campaign that were children of rape."
Though he'd later tease a return to politics, Akin would never run another campaign. First elected in 1988 as a Missouri state representative, Akin went to Washington as a U.S. representative in 2000.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Akin's son said the former lawmaker had been living with cancer for several years. He died in his Wildwood home late Sunday. He was 74.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com
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