With women's issues front and center again in the presidential campaign, a bus tour through several swing states kicked off Monday in opposition to President Obama's views on abortion.
At the same time, the Obama campaign launched a new TV ad — aimed at some of the same voters in some of the same key states — criticizing Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, on the issue.
As you've probably heard by now, Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., told a St. Louis television station in an interview released Sunday that, from what he's heard, pregnancy in the case of rape is rare because, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin, who's running for Senate against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, later said he "misspoke."
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney called the remarks "insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong."
But in a phone interview from the bus tour that kicked off in western Iowa Monday morning, former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., now with the anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, defended Akin, calling him a "very honest man."
"He made a mistake, he's admitted it, he misspoke," she said. "Anyone that's a human being can understand that."
The tour, highlighting what organizers call "the extreme abortion record of President Obama," is visiting 30 cities in the battleground states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia and Florida this week.
Musgrave criticized several Obama administration policies, such as requiring under the new national health care law that most health insurance plans cover contraceptives, including some of those offered by religiously affiliated employers (but not churches themselves).
In an interview with Iowa Public Radio, Musgrave said, "They want to talk about contraception, but this is really about abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization." The federal guidelines require most health plans to cover a variety of preventive and reproductive services, including birth control and sterilization options.
Meanwhile, a new Obama campaign TV ad released in Iowa Monday says Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have "backed proposals to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest." The ad also is scheduled to air in Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Ohio and Florida.
The fact-check site PolitiFact gave a "pants-on-fire" rating to an Obama campaign ad released last month — before Ryan was announced as Romney's running mate — for a similar statement about Romney's position on abortion in the case of rape and incest. It said the Obama campaign "twisted Romney's position to a ridiculous degree."
In a statement Sunday night, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said: "Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin's statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape."
Romney has stated his support for legalized abortion for rape and incest as recently as last year. But Ryan has supported restrictions on abortion in such cases.
In Iowa and other key states, both campaigns have initiatives focused specifically on wooing women voters.
Romney's "Women for Mitt" campaign, which officially launched last week, has a full-time staffer in Iowa.
The president's Women for Obama Steering Committee is organizing phone banks and other events, and plans training sessions for women over the next month in several of Iowa's larger cities.
Sarah McCammon reports for Iowa Public Radio.