Women’s health care a defining issue in Senate race

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (Photo & story: Missouri News Horizon)

CAMDENTON, Mo. — Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has made women’s health care issues a pillar of her reelection campaign, and, in an electorate that so vocally touts its opposition to abortion, has been surprisingly successful.

In six seconds in August, a race that was by all accounts supposed to be about the economy and federal regulations turned into a discussion about women’s issues, from health care to whether women and men should be paid equally.

Then, her Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, made his infamous comment in which he stated that women can somehow shut down pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”

Now, every comment Akin makes about women is carefully scrutinized. Akin sparked a new storm late last month when he criticized McCaskill’s debate performance as less “lady like” than her Senate debates in 2006.

“We want him to keep talking,” McCaskill said to laughter and applause from supporters. “Every week, we get another radical view from Todd Akin.”

Last week, Akin made clear his opposition to legislation that would guarantee equal pay to women and men working in the same job, and followed by falsely claiming that his highest paid staff member is a woman (It is in fact a man).

Over the weekend, McCaskill released a new ad touting her experience as a prosecutor while criticizing rival Todd Akin’s opposition to emergency contraception.

“As a prosecutor, Claire McCaskill put hundreds of predators behind bars, fought on behalf of victims, counseled survivors of sexual violence. It’s why Claire understands that survivors of rape deserve the option of emergency contraception whether they accept it or not,” the ad stated. “But Todd Akin opposes emergency contraception for victims of rape and incest.”

Pointing to Akin’s comments that women can shut down pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape,” the commercial added, “it’s not what Todd Akin said. It’s what he believes.”

At a campaign stop in Camdenton, McCaskill was approached by a woman who denounced Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark as “idiotic.”

“I was raped when I was 16,” Cindy McMarus told McCaskill. “It didn’t shut down.”

In an interview on Saturday after a campaign stop in Camdenton, McCaskill said her campaign’s focus on women’s issues is “so much of a conversation right now is because Todd Akin made it a conversation by exposing views that most women just flat out reject.”

“They don’t think an employer should have the freedom to discriminate against them and pay them less for the same work. They don’t believe that they should be made a criminal for taking emergency contraception after they’ve been a victim of rape,” she said. “That is all on Todd Akin.”

Akin has repeatedly apologized for his six second mistake, but the issue still haunts him on the campaign trail as a fundraising boom for McCaskill and a fundraising dampener for himself. The issue will likely be a topic of the pair’s final debate, which takes place next week in St. Louis.