Obama Condemns Mourdock’s Remarks on Rape and Pregnancy

US President Barack Obama and Jay Leno
US President Barack Obama chats with host Jay Leno during a taping of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" at NBC Studios in Burbank, California on October 24, 2012. Photographer: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama condemned remarks by an Indiana Republican U.S. Senate candidate who described pregnancy caused by rape as something “God intended,” saying it illustrated the stakes in the presidential election.

“I don’t know how these guys come up with these ideas,” Obama said when asked on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” about the remark by candidate Richard Mourdock. “Rape is rape. It is a crime and so these various distinctions about rape, don’t make too much sense to me, don’t make any sense to me.”

Mourdock’s statement, made during a debate two days ago with his opponents, roiled a tight race less than two weeks before the election and spilled over into the presidential contest.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has endorsed Mourdock and appeared in campaign ads for him. Romney distanced himself from the comments without withdrawing his support. “Governor Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an e-mail.

Mourdock apologized earlier yesterday for his “less than fully articulate use of words,” while saying he stands by his position. At a press conference at the Indiana Republican Party headquarters in Indianapolis, he said repeatedly that he views life as “precious” and that he abhors violence, including rape. He said Democrats have begun to “twist” his words.

Debate Comment

Mourdock’s remark on God’s intentions came in response to a voter-submitted question about abortion toward the end of a debate with Democratic U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly and Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning.

“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

On the NBC program last night, Obama said Mourdock’s comments highlighted the importance of the Nov. 6 election, saying the next president may have the chance to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices. The court’s ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. “is probably hanging in the balance,” Obama said.

In a close race with Romney, Obama is counting on support from female voters and has made explicit pitches to them in the campaign.

Mourdock’s remarks show “exactly why you don’t want a bunch of politicians, mostly male, making decisions about women’s health care decisions,” he said.