Akin and Abortion: Southern AZ Congressional Candidates Speak Out

The abortion and “legitimate rape” controversy that was ignited by Missouri Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin has spilled over into Southern Arizona’s congressional races.

The Range looked at Akin’s comments and the related legislation that would have redefined “rape” as “forcible rape” in regards to the U.S. Senate race between Republican Congressman Jeff Flake and Democrat Richard Carmona here.

Congressional candidates are also speaking out on the issue. Republican Jonathan Paton, who is seeking a seat in the sprawling Congressional District 1, called on Akin to get out of the Senate race.

“The comments made by Todd Akin are extremely offensive toward victims of rape and sexual assault,” Paton said in a statement. “Akin’s comments are reprehensible and wrong and I completely condemn them. There is no defense for his words and Akin should apologize and step down as a candidate. If he has so little respect for women and victims of rape he is not fit to serve in the United State Senate.”

Paton, who is the favorite to win tomorrow's primary election, says he opposes legal abortion in nearly all instances, but makes an exception for women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest or who could face health issues as a result of their pregnancy.

In his answers to a questionnaire from the Center for Arizona Policy, Paton did not support exception for rape or incest. But he says that was an error on the part of his campaign and he will be clarifying his position with the Christian conservative organization.

He points to earlier statements and questionnaires where he had supported exemptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

His likely Democratic opponent, Ann Kirkpatrick, also condemned Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.”

"These comments were more than a political gaffe,” Kirkpatrick said via email. “They were a reminder that we need to elect commonsense leaders who will stand up for women’s health issues and say no to extremists pushing an out-of-touch agenda."

Kirkpatrick does not support banning abortion, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson.

“Ann is pro-choice,” Johnson told The Range via email. “She believes that medical decisions belong between a woman and her doctor, without the government interfering.”

In the Congressional District 2 race, Republican Martha McSally also told the Center for Arizona Policy that she opposed abortion in cases of rape and incest.

In a February interview with the Weekly, McSally declined to state her position on legal abortion in cases of rape or incest, saying that “legislators are not really involved in this issue right now. We have a Supreme Court decision, and so I'll be focusing on things that the House of Representatives needs to be doing.”

But last week, McSally spokesman Bruce Harvie told TW that McSally opposes abortion rights but “supports exemptions for rape, incest and the life of mothers.”

Harvie said that McSally considered Akin’s comments to be “absolutely reprehensible.”

Democratic Congressman Ron Barber, who will face McSally (barring an unlikely upset in tomorrow’s primary election), supports abortion rights.

"I support that (ruling) and support the right of a woman to make that decision, which is a very difficult one for the woman who has to make it," Barber told the Weekly in May. "We don't need government or anyone else making that decision."

Barber has also been critical of new state laws restricting abortion and federal funding for Planned Parenthood in Arizona.

He spoke out on the Akin controversy last week in a statement emailed to reporters:.

The comments made yesterday by Rep. Todd Akin regarding abortion in instances of rape are just plain wrong and must be condemned. They have no basis in science and demonstrate terrible disregard and disrespect for the thousands of women who are victims of sexual assault every single week.

Rep. Akin's comments are yet another attack on women's rights and their ability to make their own healthcare decisions. This kind of extremism cannot be allowed to dictate our nation's policies. We need leaders on both sides of the aisle who will stand up for women, not turn back the clock on equality. From the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to the current proposal for paycheck fairness—there are opportunities for this Congress to do the right thing for America's women. Over and over again, Congress has failed to act. It's about time that we put leaders into office who will do the right thing rather than cavalierly disregard women's rights."