Ryan grilled on abortion and 'forcible rape'

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., speaks during a campaign rally at the American Helicopter Museum & Education Center, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, in West Chester, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

(CBS News) ROANOKE, Va. - In his first solo public statement on the issue, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan called controversial comments made by Missouri Senate hopeful Todd Akin "outrageous" in an interview with KDKA Pittsburgh. The staunchly anti-abortion House member declined to explain the phrase "forcible rape," which appeared in a bill he co-sponsored with Akin.

Pictures: Rep. Todd Akin

Ryan, in the interview taped on Tuesday in the Pittsburgh suburbs, said of Akin's suggestion that women can biologically repel pregnancies in cases involving "legitimate" rape,"His statements were outrageous, over the pale. I don't know anybody who would agree with that. Rape is rape. Period. End of story."

Ryan acknowledged that as vice president, his views on abortion would not have the weight of Romney's. For more than a decade, Ryan has opposed all abortions except to save the life of the woman; Romney supports exceptions for rape and incest.

"Well, look, I'm proud of my pro-life record. And I stand by my pro-life record in Congress. It's something I'm proud of," Ryan said. "But Mitt Romney is the top of the ticket, and Mitt Romney will be president, and he will set the policy of the Romney administration."

Ryan was asked in the interview about his co-sponsorhip, with Akin, of a bill barring federal funding for abortions with an exception carved out for "forcible rape." He sidestepped a direct question about what he meant by "forcible rape," a much-criticized term by abortion rights advocates.

"Rape is rape. There is no splitting hairs over rape," Ryan replied.

Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith issued a statement blasting Ryan for his earlier involvement with the bill, saying "As a Republican leader in the House, Paul Ryan worked with Todd Akin to try to narrow the definition of rape and outlaw abortion even for rape victims. 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."

Asked later by reporters on his plane if he regretted sponsoring abortion legislation with Akin, Ryan replied, "That bill passed I think by 251 votes. It was bipartisan. I think HR-3 is the one you are talking about. I think we had 251 votes, 16 Democrats. I am proud of my pro-life record I have." The House roll call shows Ryan was remembering correctly.

Ryan said he had spoken to Akin on Tuesday night and it went as "you would imagine." He declined to give further details. "I will keep it between us, but I agree with (Sen.) Roy (Blunt) and (former Sen.) Jack Danforth and the rest of the people from the Missouri delegation, current and former, that he should have dropped out of the race. But he is not, he is going to run his campaign and we are going to run ours." He said he had no plans to talk to Akin again to try to convince him to withdraw.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.