Republicans are frantically trying to get U.S. Rep. Todd Akin to drop out of the Senate race in Missouri after his remark about abortion and rape, but not because it was offensive and ignorant.

They’re afraid he might lose and cost them a chance at a Senate majority next year. He would surely be replaced by a Republican who sounds more reasonable but holds similarly extreme views on abortion, immigration, gay rights and the role of government because those are the kinds of candidates the party nominates these days in state after state.

Like many Republicans, including the vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, Akin opposes abortion even when a woman has been raped. But, in an interview that was aired on Aug. 19, Akin went further and decided to explain his position by saying that pregnancy rarely results from rape because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

His comments betray more than a remarkable unfamiliarity with the human reproductive system. They expose a widely held belief among many fierce abortion opponents that a rape exception will be abused by women whose rapes were not “legitimate.”

The principal difference between Akin and most other Republican candidates is that they would be more decorous in inventing reasons to strip women of their abortion rights. One of the two candidates Akin defeated in the Republican primary supported the overturn of Roe v. Wade; the other supported a constitutional amendment saying life begins at conception.

All three positions are outside the mainstream of American opinion, but they are pretty much in the dead center of Republican thinking.

If the party wanted to end these kinds of embarrassing moments, it could return to the days when it nominated mainstream candidates.

— The New York Times, Aug. 20

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.