GOP Congressman Who Made 'Legitimate Rape' Remark Dies

Mo.'s Todd Akin, who made inflammatory comment about abortion and women's bodies, has died at 74
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 4, 2021 8:21 AM CDT
GOP Congressman Who Made 'Legitimate Rape' Remark Dies
In this Nov. 3, 2012, file photo, then-Republican US Senate candidate Todd Akin addresses supporters during a campaign event in Kansas City, Mo.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

(Newser) – Former US Rep. Todd Akin, a conservative Missouri Republican whose comment that women's bodies have a way of avoiding pregnancies in cases of "legitimate rape" sunk his bid for the US Senate, and who became a cautionary tale for other GOP candidates, died late Sunday. He was 74. Akin had cancer for several years, his son Perry said in a statement. He died at his home in Wildwood, a St. Louis suburb. "As my father's death approached, we had people from all different walks of life share story after story of the personal impact he had on them," Perry Akin said in a statement to the AP. "He was a devout Christian, a great father, and a friend to many.”

Akin represented a GOP-leaning eastern Missouri district that included St. Louis-area suburbs for 12 years, giving up a safe seat to run for the US Senate in 2012 against the incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill—only to seriously hurt Republicans' chances of recapturing a Senate majority less than two weeks later. Akin, a strong abortion opponent, was asked during an interview by a St. Louis television station whether he supported allowing abortions for women who've been raped. He answered that "from what I understand from doctors" such pregnancies are "really rare."

He added: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." His comments sparked an outcry. The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, immediately rebuked Akin and said his campaign would allow abortions in such cases. Criticism of Akin's remarks clouded his US Senate bid until the end, making him a symbol of how Republicans could fumble away races they had a good chance of winning with a candidate deemed too far to the right. Akin's campaign initially said he "misspoke," and Akin later said he was wrong.

Akin faced pressure from the national GOP to withdraw and allow the state party to pick a replacement. He refused and ended up losing the race by nearly 16 percentage points, receiving 39% of the vote. Two years later, Akin published a book, Firing Back, in which he accused GOP leaders of abandoning him and letting McCaskill win. He also retracted his public apology for his "legitimate rape" remark. Akin never ran for office again. Survivors include Akin's wife, Lulli Boe Akin, his mother, Nancy Bigelow Akin, four sons, two daughters, and 18 grandchildren.

(Read more Todd Akin stories.)

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