A U.S. Senate candidate's statement regarding rape and pregnancy that has sparked outrage nationally is also reverberating in local races on Long Island.
In a television interview in Missouri on Sunday, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin was asked about his stance on abortion and said he believes that in cases of “legitimate rape” a woman’s body can “shut that whole thing down” to prevent her from becoming pregnant. He later apologized for the comments and said he misspoke, but he rejected calls from both Republicans and Democrats to drop out of the race.
Bridget Fleming, of Noyac, a Democratic candidate for New York State Senate, called on incumbent Republican Sen. Kenneth LaValle, of Port Jefferson, on Wednesday to “publically disavow” Akin’s statements.
“As a former member of the DA’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit, I was shocked to hear the callous and grossly inaccurate comments made by Rep. Akin, who has served in the U.S. Congress for six terms,” Fleming said. “And as a resident of Long Island, I am disheartened to see that Senator LaValle hasn’t yet spoken up.”
Contacted by Patch Thursday, the LaValle campaign readily denounced Akin's comment.
“Senator LaValle believes you do not defend the indefensible,” said a campaign spokeswoman. “The senator has his own thoughts and his own record. The congressman from Missouri’s words were reprehensible, and obviously the senator doesn’t agree with them.”
Fleming took the opportunity to point out the contrast between her position on abortion rights and LaValle’s. She said she is an advocate for “women’s health and reproductive freedom,” and accused LaValle of limiting women’s health care options.
The LaValle campaign did not wish to respond at this time to Fleming's statements regarding his record on abortion and birth control.
According to VoteSmart.org, the New York State Right to Life Committee gave LaValle a 73 percent rating in 2011, and NARAL Pro-Choice New York labeled the senator “anti-choice” in 2004.
While Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, of Southampton, and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler, of St. James, fall along party lines when it comes to abortion, they found common ground this week over Akin's comments.
“Let me be clear: Congressman Akin’s comments on rape were ill informed, hurtful, and irresponsible,” Bishop said in a campaign statement on Tuesday. “His ignorance of basic reproductive science is matched only by the heartlessness of his comments ..."
Bishop said it was "troubling" that Altschuler was silent on the matter, but three hours later on Tuesday, Altschuler released a statement of his own.
"As someone who was raised by a single mom who sacrificed everything for me, and a proud husband and father to a beautiful 1-year-old daughter, there is no room for debate about this issue with me — Congressman Todd Akin should withdraw from the Missouri Senate race immediately for his absurd and offensive comments," Altschuler said. "There is no room for this kind of sentiment in the public discourse.”