FORT WAYNE – God’s place in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Indiana inspired nationwide debate Wednesday, extending all the way to the presidential campaign.
Republican Richard Mourdock’s remarks about abortion in a Tuesday candidates debate – that “life is that gift from God” and pregnancy resulting from rape “is something that God intended to happen” – were denounced by Democrats, defended by conservatives and either rejected or avoided by certain Republicans.
President Obama “felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women,” Obama campaign aide Jen Psaki told reporters traveling with the campaign, according to media reports.
“This is a reminder that a Republican Congress working with a Republican President Mitt Romney would feel that women should not be able to make choices about their own health care,” Psaki said.
Andrea Saul, an aide to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, told The Associated Press that Romney does not agree with Mourdock’s opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest but that Romney still supports Mourdock’s Senate run.
The Romney campaign said it has not asked Mourdock to withdraw a TV ad in which Romney endorses the Indiana state treasurer.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., canceled an Indianapolis campaign appearance with Mourdock that had been scheduled for Wednesday.
“Our teams spoke overnight, and it was decided that she would stay home so that (Mourdock) could speak to the debate issues today,” Mourdock campaign aide Brose McVey said in an email. An Ayotte aide told media that she disagreed with Mourdock’s comments about rape pregnancies.
Other Republicans who reportedly rebuffed Mourdock’s remarks included Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Dean Heller of Nevada and Senate candidates Linda McMahon of Connecticut and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin.
But Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement: “Richard and I, along with millions of Americans – including even Joe Donnelly – believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous.”
Rep. Donnelly, D-2nd, and Mourdock are vying to replace Sen. Richard Lugar, whom Mourdock defeated in the May Republican primary election. Recent polls have indicated the race is a statistical tie.
Other statements of support for Mourdock included:
•Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which is opposed to abortion rights, said: “Richard Mourdock said that life is always a gift from God, and we couldn’t agree more. To report his statement as an endorsement of rape is either willfully ignorant or malicious. Congressman Donnelly should not underestimate our ability to understand Mourdock’s meaning.”
•Micah Clark, executive director of the conservative American Family Association of Indiana, said, “It is unfortunate that some in the media and certain political leaders would take the heartfelt words of Richard Mourdock, which were based upon his belief that all life matters to God, and attempt to distort them.”
Mourdock’s critics had their say, too:
•Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said: “National Republicans cannot paper over Richard Mourdock’s heinous views on rape. Enough is enough. The Republican Party needs to stop the coddling and take a stand against the horribly offensive and dangerous views of the Tea Party and their extreme candidates.”
•Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which supports abortion rights, said: “Mr. Mourdock’s lack of compassion for rape survivors is callous, insulting and completely out of touch. What is equally disturbing is the fact that Gov. Romney has endorsed Mourdock and appeared in a TV ad on his behalf.”
•Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, D-Fla., who chairs the Democratic National Committee, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, criticized Mourdock’s “outrageous” remarks in a telephone conference call with reporters.
•Indiana Democrats – including gubernatorial candidate John Gregg, 3rd District congressional nominee Kevin Boyd and state party Chairman Dan Parker – condemned Mourdock.
Boyd called on election opponent Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, to withdraw his endorsement of Mourdock. Stutzman’s campaign did not publicly comment on Mourdock’s debate remarks.
Likewise, the Indiana Republican Party declined to weigh in on whether rape pregnancies are God’s will.
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