NRSC chief Cornyn defends Mourdock after abortion comments

National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) is standing by Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) after his Tuesday night comments that pregnancy resulting from rape can be "something God intended."

In a statement released Wednesday, Cornyn points out that Mourdock's Senate opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), is also against abortion rights and calls Democratic attempts to attack Mourdock on the issue "irresponsible and ridiculous." 

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"Richard and I, along with millions of Americans — including even Joe Donnelly — believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous," Cornyn said in a statement. "In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it's comes to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life."

Mourdock is struggling to pull ahead of Donnelly in the heavily Republican state, and if Donnelly can win it would be a major blow to the GOP's chances of retaking control of the Senate.

Cornyn also attacks Donnelly for backing "ObamaCare, government bailouts, reckless spending and higher taxes" and calls Mourdock the "candidate to help get our country back on track."

Mourdock's comments came during a debate with Donnelly, as the GOP candidate sought to explain his opposition to abortion rights except in cases where the mother's life is at risk.

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

After the debate Donnelly put out a statement attacking Mourdock on the issue.

"I think rape is a heinous and violent crime in every instance," Donnelly said in the statement. "The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in does not intend for rape to happen — ever. What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."

Other Democrats pounced as well, calling for Mitt Romney to rescind his recent endorsement of the Tea Party favorite and ask him to pull a new ad that touts his support. 

Many compared the comments to Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) remarks from August stating that "legitimate rape" rarely leads to pregnancy, which resulted in the NRSC abandoning his campaign against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

Mourdock supporters, though, respond that the candidate meant only that he believes all life is a gift from God and the comment wasn't comparable to Akin's scientifically dubious remark.

Supporters also point out that Donnelly supported an Akin-backed bill that would have barred federal funding of abortions in cases of statutory rape.

But while Cornyn and the NRSC have moved to back Mourdock, GOP support has not been unanimous. On Tuesday night a spokeswoman for Romney sought to distance the nominee from the remarks.

"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

Romney's recent ad in support of Mourdock means it is likely he will continue to face questions about whether he still backs his campaign.