Date: August 24 2012
WASHINGTON: Mitt Romney met Dr Jack Willke, the pro-life doctor said to be behind Congressman Todd Akin's extreme views on rape and abortion, less than a year ago.
Dr Willke, who claims that rape victims almost never become pregnant, said he met the presumptive Republican presidential candidate in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October. He also says he has met the vice-presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, several times.
''[Mr Romney] told me, 'Thank you for your support - we agree on almost everything and if I'm elected president I will make some major pro-life pronouncements,''' Dr Willke said. ''I thanked him, said he was 99 per cent of what we wanted, and told him I would help in any way I could.''
Mr Akin, the Missouri Senate candidate, threw the Republican campaign into disarray this week when he said women rarely became pregnant as the result of ''legitimate rape''.
''If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,'' he said, citing unnamed ''doctors''.
A Romney spokesman did not return a request for comment on whether he had met Dr Willke.
Continuing to resist pressure from all sides of his party, including Mr Romney, the 65-year-old Mr Akin refused to step down from the Missouri race, which is a pivotal target for Republicans trying to win control of the Senate in November.
To try to capitalise on sympathy from right-wingers among the party grassroots, Mr Akin said during a new fund-raising appeal ''the liberal elite'' were trying to remove a ''pro-life conservative'' from a position of influence.
''The people of Missouri chose me, and I don't believe it's right for party bosses to decide to override those voters,'' he told the US ABC news channel.
Dr Willke, a former president of the US National Right to Life Committee, officially endorsed Mr Romney during his failed 2008 presidential bid.
In an interview on Wednesday he reiterated his view that a woman has a ''one in a thousand'' chance of conceiving when raped. Mainstream studies put the number closer to one in 20.
The Obama campaign has seized on the Akin furore as proof of its claim that the Republican Party is ''dangerously wrong for women'', which it proclaimed from a banner headline on the Democratic National Committee website above a picture of Mr Romney, Mr Ryan and Mr Akin.
The row has focused attention on Mr Ryan's views on abortion and raised questions about his decision to co-sponsor a 2011 anti-abortion bill that in early drafts talked of allowing federal funding only for pregnancies caused by ''forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest''.
Asked in an interview in Pittsburgh why he had sponsored legislation that referred to ''forcible rape'', and whether he could define other kinds of rape, Mr Ryan interrupted twice to say: ''Rape is rape and there's no splitting hairs over rape.''
The Obama campaign said Mr Ryan, a Catholic, had done a ''great disservice to women in America'' in trying to narrow the definition of rape.
''He may hope that American women never learn about this record but they deserve an answer to why he wanted to redefine rape and remove protections for rape victims,'' said Lis Smith, an Obama campaign spokeswoman.
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