The tight Indiana Senate race has taken a controversial turn in the last twenty-four hours, as Republican hopeful Richard Mourdock deals with fallout from his remarks about abortion in last night’s debate. It’s the same concept that got Todd Akin in trouble: the candidate’s stance on abortion in the case of rape or incest. Pro-life Mourdock does not support an exception in either case, and his word choice in so stating has him in hot water with Democrats and even some fellows on the Right.
Unlike Akin, however, Mourdock didn’t make an offensive or outrageous claim based on junk science. Instead, he appealed to his faith as his reason for his stance, albeit in a clunky way:
When he explained at Tuesday night's debate that the only exception to a ban on abortion should be for the life of a mother, Mourdock said: "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 God intended to happen."
Many on the Left have been working to suggest that Mourdock condones rape, a position the candidate unequivocally repudiated at a news conference this afternoon:
The Republican candidate for the Senate in Indiana, Richard Mourdock, said on Wednesday he was sorry if anyone misunderstood a comment on rape and abortion, and White House hopeful Mitt Romney's campaign said he would stand by the controversial candidate.
At a hastily called news conference on Wednesday, Mourdock said he abhors rape and violence against women.
"I apologize that they came away" with that interpretation, he said. "And I have certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation."
Some on the right – including Linda McMahon, Republican running for Senate in Connecticut, and Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts – disavowed Mourdock entirely, as their own close races in rather blue states essentially demanded that. Mitt Romney’s campaign, however, pledged continued support for Mourdock, while also stating that Mitt does not agree with what Mourdock said.
Yet despite the apparent parallels between Mourdock and Akin’s situations, they’re pretty different. First off, of course, Akin made an absolutely ridiculous statement regarding a woman’s ability to “reject” a pregnancy as a result of rape. Mourdock did no such thing; he was clumsily attempting to point out that he believes all life is a gift from God, and thus he does not support abortion for rape. Furthermore, Joe Donnelly, Mourdock’s Democratic opponent, is himself prolife, though he does support abortion for rape and incest.
Given that this race is virtually tied, this incident could well impact Mourdock’s standing in the race. That all depends on the kind of media play it receives in the coming days. Naturally, many hard-liners on the Left have been playing this up, including Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Whether Indianans are listening remains to be seen.
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