Democrats are trying to tie Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to GOP Rep. Todd Akin's claim that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant, accusing Republicans of trying to drag women back to "the Dark Ages."
"Akin's choice of words isn't the real issue here," Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a fundraising email. "The real issue is a Republican Party—led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan—whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong."
"I'm outraged at the Republicans trying to take women back to the Dark Ages—if you agree, join me in taking a stand for women," she said.
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Akin—who claimed rape-induced pregnancies are rare because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down"—later said he misspoke.
And the Romney campaign put out a statement distancing itself from the remarks. "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape," spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
But Wasserman Schultz highlighted Romney's vow to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and noted that Ryan co-sponsored legislation that would have narrowed the rape exception in an anti-abortion bill to "forcible rape." House Republicans dropped the measure after an outcry.
"And what do Romney and Ryan think of Akin's latest statement? They've been trying to distance themselves from it—but Congressman Ryan has already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues that restrict women's ability to make their own health care decisions," she said.
"This kind of 'leadership' is dangerously wrong for women—and I can't sit by and watch as these out of touch Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and Todd Akin continue to roll back women's rights," Wasserman Schultz said.
The Democrats' eagerness to harness the controversy highlights the extent to which President Barack Obama hopes the "gender gap"—his advantage over Romney among women, especially unmarried women—will help spell victory in November.