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Todd Akin, running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, meets with members of the community in 2001. (LARRY WILLIAMS/Associated Press)
Todd Akin, running for a U.S. Senate seat in Missouri, meets with members of the community in 2001. (LARRY WILLIAMS/Associated Press)

Expat dispatches: In Todd Akin’s Missouri, it sometimes feels like ‘another century’ Add to ...

Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate from Missouri, ignited a firestorm of controversy this week when he claimed women’s bodies have the ability to end a pregnancy in the case of a “legitimate rape.”

Carla Chropkowski moved to St. Louis, Mo., after working as a probation officer in Saskatoon.

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This is part of our U.S. Election 2012: Canadians in America series – expats talking about life and politics south of the border.

One step forward, two steps back – that’s what I thought after hearing Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.”

I thought about having worked for over 25 years in the criminal justice field listening, supporting, and educating the public, the judiciary, victims, and offenders about sexual violence and offending.

In Canada, we rid the Criminal Code of the word “rape” in 1983, while encompassing new terminology that was more inclusive of the harm that sexual violence caused.

Sometimes I think I’ve been transported to a foreign country in another century.

I live in a primarily Republican part of the Greater St. Louis area, in a state that went Republican in the 2008 presidential election, but it still surprises me when I hear such inappropriate and unintellectual comments as Mr. Akin’s.

Overall, St. Louis is more Democratic than most of the state, but I can’t imagine any of my neighbours or friends, be they Republican or Democrat, who would think Mr. Akin’s comments appropriate.

However, there is a segment of the community that thinks like he does, which I’ve seen many times. Just as Mr. Akin’s comment show a willful disregard for science, I have seen that disconnect from facts and evidence elsewhere.

Once recently, when I was volunteering at a nursing home, a resident pulled me aside to try to convince me that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Most encounters I find much more angry and aggressive, but I try to move on.

Despite calls for Mr. Atkin to step down, he maintains that, as a winner of the recent Republican primary, he’s going to stay in the race.

But how many Missourians knew about this man’s thought processes? His beliefs? It’s not enough that he’s apologized. Not to me anyway. I’m not a Republican, but even if this came from a Democrat, I’d be wanting that candidate to step down as well.

It’s hard to compare the political scene here in the U.S. or even Missouri with either Canada or Saskatchewan. Here, I consider myself a Democrat, but in Canada, I would lean somewhat left of the NDP.

I never felt threatened, however, from either Liberals or Conservatives. I had friends encompassing all parties, and we’d often talk politics with many common threads.

A common element often was our care and concern for others...our neighbours as well as those who are vulnerable. I find as Canadians we have much more tolerance, and are more open to diversity between parties, and my experience was that religion did not play a part in those politics.

I can honestly say that in Canada, I didn’t know whether a school board member was from a certain political party, or what church they belonged to. It certainly didn’t matter. But this is something that is all encompassing in American politics.

Maybe it is a good idea that Mr. Akin doesn’t step aside. He’s now given a huge boost to his Democrat rival Claire McCaskill for the Senate seat. If Mr. Akin loses, he’ll not be able to go back to representing his district in Congress. It could be goodbye for Todd Akin. Actually – maybe his comments were a good thing!

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