By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
---- — BOSTON — U.S. Sen. Scott Brown yesterday delivered a strong condemnation of a fellow Republican, calling on Missouri Rep. Todd Akin to withdraw from his Senate campaign after making controversial remarks about “legitimate rape.”
Brown’s Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren also called Akin’s remarks “reprehensible,” but still tried to link the agendas of Brown and Akin as the Massachusetts Senate campaign shifted, for at least the day, from a focus on taxes to women’s reproductive rights and issues of equal pay for men and women.
Akin, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri, reportedly told a local television station over the weekend cases of pregnancy among rape victims are “really rare.” The remarks were made in the context of a discussion about the Congressman’s opposition to abortion in almost all cases, and sparked widespread outrage across the country from members of both parties.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said.
Brown, noting his status as a husband and father of two daughters, said he found Akin’s comments “outrageous, inappropriate and wrong.”
“There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for U.S. Senate in Missouri,” Brown said in a statement.
By mid-afternoon yesterday, it appeared that pressure was mounting on Akin to step aside, though the Republican said he had no intention of doing so. Mitt Romney distanced himself and his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan from the Congressman’s comments, calling them “inexcusable and insulting.”
Warren, however, appeared determined not to let Brown off the hook, despite the senator’s strong rebuke of Akin.
“Rep. Todd Akin’s comments are reprehensible,” Warren said in a statement. “I understand that Scott Brown and other Republicans want to pretend Todd Akin is an isolated individual, but he is clearly in line with the Republican agenda. The agenda of the Republican Party is to limit access to health care services. It’s to deny women equal pay for equal work. It’s to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. And it’s to select as a vice presidential nominee someone who co-sponsored legislation with Rep Akin to redefine ‘rape.’”
Brown generally favors abortion rights, but earlier this year supported an amendment offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, also of Missouri, that would have allowed for religious and moral exemptions from providing health care coverage for certain procedures and drugs. Brown defended his vote as one in favor of religious freedom.
“Brown has been right in the middle of this through his support for the Blunt amendment, his opposition to equal pay legislation, his endorsements of Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket and his work for a Republican majority in the Senate,” Warren said in her statement.
Later in the afternoon, Warren also went on MSNBC with women’s workplace rights advocate Lilly Ledbetter to discuss the important of equal pay for women.
“Equality has been what our country’s been founded on and women are just saying when it comes to the workforce that we are being treated equally as others. That’s all equal pay for equal work is about, and I can’t believe that the Republican have lined up entirely against it, including my Republican opponent in this Senate race. It just amazes me,” Warren said.
Brown was not in the Senate in 2009 when Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act extending the statute of limitations for equal pay lawsuits regarding gender-based pay discrimination, but has said he would have supported the law.
Brown, however, twice voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act that would require employers to prove that any discrepancies between male and female pay are job-related and not based in discrimination.
Brown, in June, defended those votes by saying he was concerned the legislation would be harmful to small businesses, calling the bill “flawed and overreaching.”
“As a father and husband of women in the workforce, I believe strongly in fair pay, and employers who discriminate against women should be prosecuted aggressively," Brown said in a statement in June.
Warren said unequal pay is something that impacts a woman for her entire life, from her first job to retirement. Pay discrimination has also contributed the rate of women filing for bankruptcy outpacing that of men, Warren said on MSNBC.
“It’s a punch that happens every single day to women, and it’s wrong,” Warren said.