Debate: Did Todd Akin’s Rape Remarks Reignite the Bipartisan War on Women?


Republican nominee for Senate and current Missouri Congressman Todd Akin asserted his views on abortion in an interview on Sunday, stating that when a woman is “legitimately raped,” her body turns on a defense mechanism that prevents pregnancy, making conception a rare occurrence. Akins later released a statement claiming that he “misspoke” during his interview.

Romney responded to Akin’s comments by calling them "insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong.” He told the National Review Online that the comments were “offensive” and “without merit.” Distancing himself from Akin, Romney adds that he has “an entirely different view.” Republican figures of all kinds are attempting to distance themselves from Akin's remarks.

Akin's comment may have another effect: reigniting the debate over who is really waging the "war on women," and on what front the war is taking place.

The American Civil Liberties Union uses the term the "war on women" to describe legislative and rhetorical attacks on women and their rights, including restrictions on contraception, suspending federal Planned Parenthood funding, and banning health insurance companies from covering abortion costs. Any limitation on a woman's health care, or protection for her or her family is considered part of the war on women. But in addition to reproductive rights, unemployment rates amongst women are also under the microscope this election season.

One of Obama’s main talking points in the upcoming election is reproductive rights, a popular issue for young college-age voters. He has critiqued Romney for opposing federal funding for Planned Parenthood and for being anti-abortion.

Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, and Todd Akin supported H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” early on. The bill, which was later amended, included the widely unpopular term “forcible rape.” Ryan has been consistently against abortion, including in instances of rape. Ryan's partnership with the former pro-choice Massachusetts governor is surprising. 

In contrast, a Romney campaign ad accuses President Barack Obama of waging a war on women, citing that during the last four years, “over 92 percent of the jobs lost under this president were lost by women.

The chart, courtesy of, indicates that unemployment rates of men have recovered faster than those of women since the recession started.

Moreover, the Republican National Committee has criticized Obama for other inconsistences as far as women’s rights go. In an ad, they reference Ron Suskind's book Confidence Men, which argues that male staffers in the White House marginalize their female counterparts. The RNC also mentions a connection between super PAC donor Bill Maher and Obama. The HBO personality called Sarah Palin a c-word in 2008.

Liberals accuse conservatives of waging a war on women by restricting reproductive rights, while conservatives blame liberals for economically limiting job growth for women.

Weigh in: Is the war on women a social or economic issue?