Dem Party chief: Akin and Republicans want women in 'the Dark Ages'

The head of the Democratic Party denounced Republicans as wanting to "take women back to the Dark Ages" after a prominent GOP Senate candidate said pregnancies from "legitimate rape" are rare.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), head of the Democratic National Committee, used Rep. Todd Akin's (R-Mo.) remarks to blast Republicans' record on women's-health issues.

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"The real issue is a Republican Party — led by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan — whose policies on women and their health are dangerously wrong," Wasserman Schultz wrote in an email to supporters early Monday.

She added that Rep. Ryan (R-Wis.), Romney's newly announced running mate, has "already partnered with Akin on a whole host of issues" in Congress that "restrict" women's healthcare choices.

The comments from the Missouri Senate candidate have quickly become a national issue with Democrats working to tie Akin to the GOP presidential ticket. President Obama has heavily courted female voters, touting his administration's record on women's health issues. Polls have shown Obama leading among female voters.

Akin's comments prompted a firestorm so intense that Romney's campaign quickly distanced itself, clarifying that a Romney-Ryan administration "would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."

The flap left many wondering about the implications for Akin's race against Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has been lagging behind the Republican in polls. But Wasserman Schultz's email signaled that the controversy is likely to grow as Democrats use it to hammer the GOP presidential ticket.

"I can't sit by and watch as these out-of-touch Republicans like Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Todd Akin continue to roll back women's rights," she wrote. "This kind of 'leadership' is dangerously wrong for women."

Akin was trying to explain his position on abortion to a St. Louis-area TV station when he said women rarely become pregnant from "legitimate rape."

"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," he said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Akin's campaign later clarified his comments in a statement saying he "misspoke" but remains opposed to abortion in cases of rape.