The campaigns for U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., and Democrat Cheri Bustos had a sharp exchange on Tuesday over rape and abortion, part of the fallout over controversial comments a Missouri lawmaker made about “legitimate rape.”
Bustos’ campaign criticized Schilling for his co-sponsorship of a bill last year she says would have redefined rape, saying he and Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., “worked closely” on the measure. She also cited Schilling’s votes to defund Planned Parenthood, calling his record on women’s issues “extreme.”
“The hundreds of thousands of women in Illinois’ 17th District deserve a representative in Congress that will stand up for their health and well being,” Bustos said in a statement.
Akin outraged Democrats and Republicans over the weekend with comments about how victims of “legitimate rape” rarely get pregnant. He has apologized but is being pressured to drop out of a highly contested Missouri Senate race against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
Schilling, in a news release Tuesday morning, condemned Akin’s comments, calling them “wrong and inexcusable.” But his campaign didn’t shrink from Bustos’ criticism, which came in a news release late Monday.
Jon Schweppe, a spokesman, declined to talk in detail about Schilling’s co-sponsorship of the abortion funding bill.
“That’s semantics. Bobby believes rape is rape,” he said. “It’s wrong.”
But he said it is Bustos who has the extreme views.
“It’s actually kind of sick, but Cheri actually supports late-term abortions for seventh-grade girls, and she doesn’t even want her parents to know about it,” he said.
Schweppe cited news reports saying EMILY’s List, whose members have given Bustos more than $110,000, has declined to support candidates in the past when they backed bans on late-term abortion or opposed measures requiring parental consent and notification.
Jess McIntosh, a spokeswoman for EMILY’s List, called the Schilling camp’s claim is “ridiculous.” She said the group supports pro-choice women who run strong campaigns.
Allison Jaslow, Bustos’ campaign manager, said: “What’s really important is for voters again to know why he felt it was important to redefine rape in Congress.”
The abortion-funding bill was introduced by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and early last year when Republicans took the majority in the House after the midterm elections. The measure, while it had some Democratic support, got a vast majority of its backing from Republicans. A total of 227 lawmakers are listed as co-sponsors.
The bill would have codified federal provisions concerning abortion, including what’s known as the Hyde Amendment, the measure that has banned federal funding for abortions since the mid-1970s.
The amendment, which is renewed annually, has included exceptions for the victims of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger. But the House bill as it was introduced last year would have changed the rape exception to victims of “forcible rape.”
That caused an outcry among critics who said it would exclude women who had been drugged or were the victims of statutory rape.
Backers of the language said critics were exaggerating the impact to serve their own ends, according to a Washington Post article on the controversy.
The language eventually was dropped, and the House approved the bill. It never got past the Senate.
The furor over Akin’s comments has dominated political coverage the past two days, as a range of candidates have weighed in, including President Barack Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
The Bustos campaign Monday noted that Schilling has taken $2,000 in campaign contributions from Akin, saying he should return the money.
On Tuesday, Schilling’s campaign said it was giving the money it received from Akin’s leadership PAC to the Rock Island County Children’s Advocacy Center.
Schweppe said it was not in response to the Bustos camp’s demand, but a decision it made once it found the donation had been made.