Romney has followed a winding path on abortion, defending abortion rights early in his political career before later amending his position and declaring that he had shifted to a pro-life view. But Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Romney's vice presidential candidate, has an ample and unwavering legislative record that firmly ties him to Akin.
In an effort to distance itself from the Senate candidate in Missouri, the Romney camp released a statement emphasizing that a "Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape." But Akin's invoking cases of "legitimate rape" echoes a similarly ambiguous wording in legislation that Akin pushed with Ryan's backing.
Federal funding for abortions is prohibited under the Hyde Amendment, but there are exceptions in cases of rape and incest. The 2011 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would have applied that exemption to victims of "forcible rape," although it did not define what constituted forcible rape.
Ryan joined Akin as a co-sponsor of the bill, which passed the House of Representatives after the word "forcible" was removed, and then foundered in the Senate. But Ryan's support for the legislation was consistent with his staunch pro-life views.
The National Right to Life committee, an anti-abortion group that rates lawmakers for their commitment to limiting abortions, has given Ryan a 100 percent pro-life voting record over his 13-year Congressional career. The organization praised Ryan's selection as Romney's running mate, saying the choice helped "form a solid pro-life ticket that truly represents the pro-life majority in the United States."
In addition to signing on to the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, Ryan joined Akin as a co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life act, which would have stipulated that human life begins at conception. That mirrors a state-level push for "personhood" legislation that was most recently struck down by an Oklahoma court.
The Obama campaign has seized on the parallels between Ryan and Akin in its effort to portray the Republican party as detrimental to women.
"While Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are working overtime to distance themselves from Rep. Todd Akin's comments on rape, they are contradicting their own records," Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement.
The Romney campaign shot back by affirming the former Massachusetts governor's pro-life views.
"He opposes abortion with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother," spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement. "The Obama campaign is attempting to scare voters with false charges in an effort to distract from President Obama's litany of failures in office."