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Todd Akin rape remarks highlight divide in GOP over abortion

Todd Akin's 'legitimate rape' comment has highlighted the differences between Mitt Romney and Sen. Paul Ryan on abortion. And Republicans would rather talk about the US economy than abortion.

By Steven R. HurstAssociated Press / August 23, 2012

Missouri Republican Senate cadidate, Rep. Todd Akin, talks with reporters in Sedalia, Mo.

(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

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Washington

The Republican national convention was planned as a festival of unity to formally anoint Mitt Romney as challenger to President Barack Obama, but instead it will open Monday with the party in turmoil over a fellow Republican's startling remarks about abortion for victims of "legitimate rape."

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The political heat over that issue deflects attention from the struggling economic recovery from the Great Recession, the issue that Republicans see as their best chance to win the White House.

What's more, the always sensitive abortion issue has shined a light on differences between Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, who was chosen as vice presidential candidate less than two weeks ago.

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Romney does not oppose abortion in cases of rape and incest or if it will save the mother's life, while Ryan opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest.

That divide reflects the party's fundamental difficulties in trying to accommodate the ultra-conservative ideologies of an increasingly powerful base of evangelical Christians and low-tax, small-government tea party adherents.

The latest uproar began when Republican Congressman Todd Akin, who is running for a Senate seat from Missouri, set off an explosion with his response to a radio interviewer's question about abortion rights for rape victims.

"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," said Akin, who, like Ryan, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

The Republican establishment — Romney and Ryan included — denounced Akin's remarks and demanded he withdraw from the race.

Akin has refused, insisting he will stay in the contest against Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat whose seat is seen as key to Republican hopes to gain majority control of the Senate.

With the Nov. 6 election less than three months away, polls show Romney and Obama locked in a virtual tie heading into their party conventions.

Romney was trying to steer the subject to energy Thursday, traveling from Arkansas to New Mexico to discuss what aides cast as a comprehensive energy plan that would hinge on opening up more areas for offshore oil drilling, including in the mid-Atlantic, where it is currently banned.

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