It's trapping season. The targets are Republicans, whom the Democratic-friendly media (the trappers) hunt in order to smear -- especially the Romney-Ryan ticket -- forcing them off message.
The bait in the latest case is the issue of abortion in cases of rape. The hunter's target was Rep. Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican, who is running for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
Thirty-nine years after Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court rulings legalizing abortion, one might think a pro-lifer like Todd Akin would be able to see he was walking into a trap when a St. Louis TV reporter asked him whether abortion should be allowed, even in cases of rape. He didn't see it coming.
Akin responded that if the rape is "legitimate" the female body "has ways to try and shut that whole thing down," that "thing" being conception. Trap set and sprung. He should have said that while rape is a horrible crime that should be prosecuted, the number of pregnancies from that criminal act pale in comparison to the greater number of unwanted pregnancies ending in abortion.
After criticism from many points on the political spectrum, including the Romney-Ryan ticket, which said it would not seek to prevent abortion in cases of rape, Akin attempted to walk back his comments: "In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview, and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for thousands of women who are raped and abused every year."
He issued an apology which he included in a hastily recorded campaign ad, but it may be too late to undo the political damage.
McCaskill, up for re-election this fall, has seized on the opportunity to use Akin's answer much as Republicans are using President Barack Obama's "you didn't build that" line about small businesses. The Democratic and pro-choice fundraising letters are already in the mail.
According to the Washington Post, "Research published in the Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests over 30,000 pregnancies result from rape annually. "Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency," the trio of researchers from the University of South Carolina concluded. "It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies." A separate 2001 study -- which used a sample of 405 rape victims between ages 12 and 45 -- found that 6.4 percent became pregnant. The U.S. Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey found there is an average of 207,754 rape victims (age 12 or older) each year.
If Akin wanted to comment on abortion (which numerous polls indicate is a low priority for most voters in this election) when asked what he thought about cases of rape, he should have made the pro-choice side explain how it can defend more than 50 million abortions in the United States since 1973. He should have said that there are thousands of women's health centers available to assist women and their unborn children in a variety of ways. Abortion is not the only option.
Democrats and their friends in big media protect their own when accused of outrageous acts. Topping a long list is the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who drove off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Mass., leaving a woman, not his wife, to drown. In 1978, Juanita Broaddrick, a Clinton campaign worker, accused Bill Clinton, then the attorney general of Arkansas, of rape (a charge Clinton denied). His advice for the fat lip he gave her, according to Broaddrick, was you'd "better get some ice for that."
Clinton, Kennedy and many other Democratic (and, yes, some Republicans) engaged in outrageous behavior, but continued to serve in office. Akin is guilty of using the wrong words and Republicans run from him like scalded dogs.
Akin considers himself an "absolutist" when it comes to life. Theologically and morally he is right, but in what Scripture refers to as a "wicked and adulterous generation," he is unlikely to advance the pro-life cause by publicly stating this position during a volatile election season when the Senate majority is up for grabs.
Akin shouldn't have to compromise his position. But if the goal is to reduce the number of abortions, focusing on pregnancy from rape does not advance that worthy objective.
Send email for Tribune Media Services columnist Cal Thomas to firstname.lastname@example.org.