The US lawmaker whose controversial remarks about rape sparked a furor said on Tuesday he would not quit his race for a US Senate seat, despite Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney’s demand to do so.
The firestorm over US Representative Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” has dominated campaign headlines and put the sensitive issue of abortion back into the spotlight ahead of the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida.
A panel has approved an anti-abortion amendment as part of the Republican platform at the convention and the divisive pro-life issue is a minefield for Romney, who lags behind US President Barack Obama among women voters.
Fearing a monumental backlash that would harm efforts by Romney to reverse that polling trend, Republican leaders closed ranks and essentially ordered Akin to go.
“Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country,” Romney said in a terse statement. “Today, his fellow Missourians [four former US senators] urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”
However, while Akin apologized, the staunchly pro-life conservative said he was not going anywhere, and a Missouri deadline for him to quit the race passed late on Tuesday without him dropping out.
“I believe there is a cause here,” Akin said on former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s radio show, adding he was getting “a great deal of grassroots support.”
“The defense of the unborn and a deep respect for life [are] important parts of who we are, and they’re not things to run away from,” he said.
Akin shocked the political world on Sunday when he said that women rarely conceive as a result of a “legitimate rape” because their bodies have the capacity to prevent such a pregnancy.
The comments sucked the air out of the political debate just as Romney and his running mate, US Representative Paul Ryan, were looking to build a head of steam rolling into next week’s convention, where they will introduce themselves to millions of Americans during prime time.
It was not immediately clear just how much harm Akin has done to the Romney campaign, but Republicans fear Akin’s gaffe will jeopardize party efforts to woo female voters and seize majority control of the US Senate in November.