WASHINGTON -- After saying he “can’t defend” Rep. Todd Akin’s suggestion that women don’t get pregnant from rape, Mitt Romney stepped up his rebuke on Tuesday when he called on Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. But archives from Romney’s previous presidential bid show that the Massachusetts Republican has historically supported the person who is the source of Akin’s theory, Dr. Jack C. Willke, the father of the antiabortion movement.
A physician and former president of the National Right to Life Committee, Willke was an “important surrogate” for Romney’s 2008 presidential bid. Willke is the oft-cited source of the theory that rape-related pregnancies are “rare.” The theory is sometimes used by antiabortion advocates to argue that abortion laws should not contain exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest.
Willke believes that trauma caused by violent rape causes a woman’s reproductive system to shut down. He presents this belief as fact in educational materials, including a book about abortion and a website called abortionfacts.com. Willke’s views – and his role in promoting a theory that has been widely rejected in modern medicine – appear not to have concerned Romney in 2007, when he touted Willke’s endorsement.
“Dr. Willke is a leading voice within the pro-life community and will be an important surrogate for Governor Romney's pro-life and pro-family agenda,” the Romney campaign said in an October 2007 statement.
“I am proud to have the support of a man who has meant so much to the pro-life movement in our country,” Romney said in the statement. “He knows how important it is to have someone in Washington who will actively promote pro-life policies. Policies that include more than appointing judges who will follow the law but also opposing taxpayer-funded abortion and partial-birth abortion.”
At the time, Willke called Romney “the only candidate who can lead our pro-life and pro-family conservative movement to victory.”
Willke has not weighed in on the presidential race this time around, but he has rushed to Akin’s defense with an open letter declaring that “the pro-life movement and I unequivocally stand with Rep. Akin.”
“How could we not?” Willke wrote of the Missouri congressman. “Rep. Akin will make the U.S. Senate a safer place for the most vulnerable in our nation."