Missouri Rep. Todd Akinâwho sparked a firestorm of criticism with his comments about "legitimate rape" in Augustâgave a speech on the House floor in 2008 in which he called those who perform abortions "terrorists" and claimed some do so on "women who are not actually pregnant."
"It is no big surprise that we fight the terrorists because they are fundamentally un-American, and yet we have terrorists in our own culture called abortionists," Akin said in the Jan. 22, 2008, speech. "One of the good pieces of news why we are winning this war is because there are not enough heartless doctors being graduated from medical schools. There is a real shortage of abortionists.
"Who wants to be at the very bottom of the food chain of medical profession?" Akin continued. "And what sort of places do these bottom-of-the-food-chain doctors work in? Places that are really a pit. You find that along with the culture of death go all kinds of other law-breaking: not following good sanitary procedure, giving abortions to women who are not actually pregnant, cheating on taxes, all these kinds of things, misuse of anesthetics so that people die or almost die."
[Related: Akin (still) staying in Missouri Senate race]
"Akin's allegation of doctors performing abortions on non-pregnant women is particularly puzzling," Mollie Reilly wrote on the Huffington Post, "since, by definition, an abortion cannot be performed if there is no pregnancy to terminate."
But as Dan Amira pointed out on New York magazine's Daily Intel blog, Akin was probably referring to reports of doctors "who tell patients that they are pregnant just so they can make some money off of a phony abortion."
In other words, illegal underground abortion clinics.
"It is clearly lost on Akin that the image he's invokingâof dirty clinics that operate illegally and misuse pain medicationâis the reality he's trying to create," Amanda Marcotte wrote on Slate.com.
The embattled Republican has fought a flurry of calls from GOP leaders to abandon his Senate campaign against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after suggesting that victims of "legitimate rape" could not become pregnant.
"Rape is an evil act," Akin said in a campaign ad released in the wake of his controversial comments. "I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them. The fact is rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is rape has many victims. The mistake I made was in the words I said, not in the heart I hold. I ask for your forgiveness."