Sexual assault isn’t usually a topic that divides people, especially not as a topic in a political race. But Indiana Republican senate candidate Richard Mourdock’s recent comment that women who have been sexually assaulted should accept their pregnancies as a gift from God has caused a stark line to be drawn in Indiana, where Republican and anti-choice political candidates and groups decide to stand in support of the embattled politician, and Democrats seek to use it to their advantage in their own campaigns.
Mourdock is no doubt welcoming the national party support, especially from leaders like Texas Senator and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, who is labeling the controversy as faux outrage and an attempt to cause division.
According to Roll Call, Cornyn said via statement:
“Richard and I, along with millions of Americans — including even Joe Donnelly — believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous,” Cornyn said in a statement. “In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it’s comes to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life.”
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Mourdock is receiving just as steady of backing from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who, though he said he did not agree with the belief that rape victims should be forced to carry unwanted pregnanies to term, would not pull his endorsement of Mourdock’s campaign—one of the few that Romney has gone out of his way to support. Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the press:
“Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock, and Mr. Mourdock’s comments do not reflect Gov. Romney’s views. We disagree on the policy regarding exceptions for rape and incest but still support him,”
Both locally and nationally, anti-choice political action groups reinforced their own backing of Mourdock, with Indiana Right to Life and American Family Association of Indiana both offering unwavering accolades. Susan B. Anthony List also criticized Mourdock’s anti-choice Democratic senate rival Joe Donnelly for trying to turn the rape comments into campaign fodder. President Marjorie Dannenfelser told LifeNews:
“Richard Mourdock said that life is always a gift from God, and we couldn’t agree more. To report his statement as an endorsement of rape is either willfully ignorant or malicious. Congressman Donnelly should not underestimate our ability to understand Mourdock’s meaning. During the same debate, the Congressman once again claimed that he was a pro-life candidate. Actions speak louder than words, and Joe Donnelly’s vote forcing taxpayers to pay for abortions under Obamacare is all Hoosiers need to know about where Joe Donnelly really stands.”
Not every Republican is quite so supportive, however. Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence, who is in a tight race against an anti-choice Democrat for the govenor’s mansion, has begun distancing himself from the Tea Party candidate, telling him to apologize for his remarks. Pence was instrumental in sponsoring misleading federal legislation to eliminate so-called “taxpayer funding of abortions,” one of the top priorities of the anti-choice movement when the House changed control in 2010, and was at one point considered the social conservatives’ favorite candidate when it came to a potential presidential run.
Pence isn’t the only Indiana candidate to weigh in on the issue, as local Democratic candidates turn the remarks into election fodder, too. Democrat Shelli Yoder, who is challenging first term Republican Todd Young for the Indiana 9th Congressional seat, sent out a recent fundraising email tying Young to Mourdock and Missouri Congressman Todd Akin. And the Indiana Democratic Party is trying to use Mourdock’s words to their advantage as well. The Courier-Journal reports that Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker is calling Mourdock’s statement “reprehensible.”
“What he said was extreme and terribly disrespectful to rape victims, and he knows it,” Parker said. “Before last night, Richard Mourdock was just a tea party zealot, now he is an extreme tea party zealot. He just disqualified himself to be Indiana’s next U.S. senator.”
Mourdock himself believes the issue is over. The Indy Star reports that the candidate “thought he was putting the matter behind him, saying, ‘I assured all women that the issue of rape is a serious issue. It is not one God condones.”’