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Where Todd Akin and Paul Ryan agree, and disagree, on abortion

There's nothing to indicate that Paul Ryan shares Rep. Todd Akin's strange rationale for denying rape victims access to abortion. But the GOP's vice presidential candidate opposes such abortions, nonetheless.

By Staff writer / August 21, 2012

In this April 2011 photo, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, right, a Republican currently running for the US Senate, listens to House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., before a news conference on Ryan's budget agenda, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File

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The interview question that hurtled Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri into a world of political hurt was why he believes that abortions should be prohibited even in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape. It's a view shared by about 20 percent of the American public and other conservative lawmakers, including vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan – and one that has been part of the Republican Party’s official platform for nearly three decades.

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Representatives Ryan and Akin, in fact, have voted in lockstep on abortion matters since Akin joined Ryan in the House in 2001. Moreover, they teamed up on a controversial bill defining life as beginning at conception. Similar measures put forward at the state level have been rejected by voters and lawmakers even in GOP strongholds such as Mississippi.

During a radio interview Tuesday, Akin has vowed to stay in the race for the US Senate, even as all four of Missouri's current and former GOP senators and the National Republican Senatorial Committee urged him to drop out. He is under fire for comments made Sunday in which he suggested that victims of a “legitimate rape” generally do not become pregnant.

Akin has since apologized. 

The Romney campaign repudiated Akin’s remarks shortly after they aired on Sunday -– and there’s nothing to connect Mitt Romney or Ryan to Akin’s bewildering statement about “legitimate rape.” The Romney campaign statement elaborated that a Romney-Ryan administration would allow abortions under the exceptional cases of rape, incest, or in instances of danger to the life of the mother. 

On the presidential ticket, then, Romney’s policy trumps Ryan’s record.

Still, Ryan's and Akin's voting records on abortion-related issues are barely distinguishable. During his 14 years in Congress, Ryan has voted in perfect concert with the positions taken by National Right to Life Committee, according to the NRLC scorecard. That's 78 votes with NRL, and none against (he didn’t vote on three bills). In his House career, Akin voted with NRL 59 times and against it once (Akin was one of 25 Republicans joining 189 Democrats to nearly sink the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003. Here’s NRLC’s write up of the MMA vote.)

However, the two differ on one important matter: Ryan believes abortions could be an option in the case of danger to the mother, while Akin does not.

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