OLYMPIA, Wash. - A Republican congressional candidate says abortion should not be legal, even when it involves "the rape thing," according to audio provided Wednesday to The Associated Press.
An activist working on behalf of liberal group FUSE Washington asked questions of Republican hopeful John Koster during a fundraiser Sunday. Koster said he does not oppose abortion when the life of the mother is in danger but then explains he would oppose it when it involves rape or incest.
Koster twice uses the phrase "the rape thing" when describing his views, first saying that he knows a woman who was raped and gave up the child for adoption without any regrets.
"But on the rape thing, it's like, how does putting more violence onto a woman's body and taking the life of an innocent child that's a consequence of this crime, how does that make it better?" Koster said in the exchange.
Koster's campaign manager, Larry Stickney, says the candidate has long been a proponent of dealing strongly with sex offenders. He noted that Koster worked in the state legislature on legislation to crack down on sex offenders and has daughters of his own.
"To imply that he's cavalier about the issue is preposterous," Stickney said. Koster is locked in a competitive House race against Democrat Suzan DelBene.
Republicans have been beleaguered this year by comments about rape that some have deemed offensive. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, said women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."
More recently, Indiana GOP candidate Richard Mourdock has been criticized for saying that pregnancy resulting from rape is God's will. Collin Jergens, a spokesman at the advocacy group FUSE Washington, said one of the group's activists went to the fundraiser to ask Koster about the issue of abortion.
Democrats have been trying to portray Koster as out of touch with the district, which stretches from areas east of Seattle to the border with Canada, and they have focused particularly on his stance on social issues. Sara Kiesler, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said the Koster's remarks are proof that he shouldn't be involved in a woman's decision about her pregnancy.
"My gut reaction was that rape is violence, and that rape is a crime, and that his choice of words diminishes that violence," Kiesler said.
Late Wednesday, Koster's Campaign released the following statement:
Koster Campaign Statement Regarding Video Circulated by DelBene Surrogates
Lacking in ideas and solutions for the enormous economic issues facing America, many "progressive" organizations and campaigns rely on dirty tricks and deception to sway close elections.
Everett, WA - October 31, 2012 - Responding to press inquiries in regards to a YouTube video posted today by an organization supporting John Koster's opponent, Suzan DelBene, Koster made the following comment: "Rape is a vicious and horribly violent crime, and no one in Washington State has been tougher on criminals and sex offenders than I have been, period."
When a state legislator, Koster authored and sponsored "two strikes, you're out" legislation for locking up violent sex offenders permanently. As a Snohomish County Councilman, John Koster is a long-time supporter of groups such as the Snohomish County Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims and the Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County.
"The recording was done secretly then edited to suit DelBene's agenda", said Larry Stickney, Koster's campaign manager. "Consider that John was at a dinner with many people trying to get his attention. He very clearly and honestly stated his thoughts on an extremely sensitive subject. He has nothing to be ashamed of here."
"The insinuation that John Koster is in some way 'callous' or 'cavalier' when it comes to the subject of rape is another example of the vicious and desperate tactics that DelBene and her surrogates have employed to slander the good name of John Koster", Stickney continued.
"DelBene has outspent Koster 5 to 1 and she's still behind. She can't gain any traction because she has no solutions to the problems facing our nation, our state and the 1st congressional district. Koster has an impeccable record as a public servant and a human being. Sad to see the depths to which these people will stoop for political gain."