US politician sparks rape furore
A Republican congressman was under mounting pressure to withdraw from his election race after claiming that victims of "legitimate rape" were unlikely to become pregnant, in an attempt to justify his zero-tolerance stance on abortion.
Todd Akin was rebuked by heavyweights from his own party, including Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate, after claiming that women had a biological defence that could block conception if they were forced into intercourse.
Mr Akin faced calls to resign his Senate nomination after John Cornyn, the Texas senator who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee described his comments as "offensive and indefensible".
"Over the next 24 hours, Mr Akin should consider what is best for him, his family, and the Republican Party," he said.
Mr Akin (65), who represents Missouri, said that according to what he had heard "from doctors", pregnancy resulting from cases of rape was "really rare".
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said. He insisted abortion was still not justified even if conception did occur.
"Let's assume that maybe that didn't work, or something," he said. "I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
President Barack Obama made an unexpected appearance at the White House press briefing to condemn Mr Akin.
"The views expressed were offensive," he said. "Rape is rape. This is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, the majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on the part of women," Mr Obama added.
Mr Romney belatedly joined the condemnation after suggestions his initial statement had not been sufficiently critical.
"Like millions of other Americans, we found the remarks to be offensive," he said. "What he said is entirely without merit and he should correct it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)