Updated: Smith Makes Abortion Gaffe (Listen to Audio)

Smith at the PA Press Club

Update: Smith explained his comments further in an interview with the York Daily Record Editorial Board (below).

Harrisburg — Republican Tom Smith spoke at the Pennsylvania press club luncheon Monday afternoon The defining moment occurred a few moments after the formal program when, asked about abortion amid a group of reporters, Smith seemed to suggest that having a child out of wedlock was analogous to rape.

Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County who is challenging freshman Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, immediately tried to backtrack his comments.

You can listen to the exchange here, and the following is PoliticsPA’s transcript:

Robert Vickers, Patriot News: In light of Congressman Akin’s comments, is there any situation that you think a woman should have access to an abortion?

Tom Smith: My stance is on record and it’s very simplistic: I’m pro-life, period. And what that Congressman said, I do not agree with at all. He should have never said anything like that.

Vickers: So in cases of incest or rape…

Laura Olson, Post-Gazette: No exceptions?

Smith: No exceptions.

Mark Scolforo, Associated Press: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?

Smith: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to.. she chose they way I thought. No don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape.

Scolforo: Similar how?

Smith: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.

Scolforo: That’s similar to rape?

Smith: No, no, no, but… put yourself in a father’s situation, yes. It is similar. But, back to the original, I’m pro-life, period.

[Another question on an unrelated topic]

John Micek, Morning Call: Mr. Smith, can I ask you to clarify one more time the question that Mark asked you. Did I just hear you say that having a child out of wedlock is analogous to rape?

Smith: No, I did not say that.

Scolforo: You did say that.

Micek: But you did say it, sir.

(Noise as a Smith campaign aide sought to answer, but Scolforo insisted Smith answer).

Scolforo: But you did say that.

Smith: I said I went through a situation.

Scolforo: With your daughter, with a daughter.

Smith: Yes.

Scolforo: OK.

Smith: And it’s very, very difficult. But do I condone rape? Absolutely not. Do I propose life? Yes I do. I’m pro-life, period.

Scolforo: So what’s the similarity between those two, in other words? Just that there’s a decision involved?

Smith: (Pause.) A life is a life, and it needs protected. Who’s going to protect it? We have to. I mean that’s, I believe life begins at conception. I’m not going to argue about the method of conception. It’s a life, and I’m pro-life. It’s that simple.

Two Democratic party trackers scurried from the room with a video camera and broad smiles, as Smith and campaign aides sought to temper the impact of their candidate’s words.

The exchange comes just a few days after Missouri Congressman and former top tier Senate hopeful Todd Akin essentially forfeited his campaign when he inaccurately asserted that women are physiologically protected from conceiving a child as a result of sexual assault.

Update 2: Smith’s Communications Director Megan Piwowar issued the following statement Monday night:

“Tom Smith is committed to protecting the sanctity of life and believes it begins at conception.  While his answers to some of the questions he faced at the Pennsylvania Press club may have been less than artful, at no time did he draw the comparison that some have inferred. When questioned if he was drawing that comparison, Tom’s answer was clear, ‘no, no, no.’ Tom was speaking to the difficult decision faced by his family, not the nature of his daughters conception.”

Update 1: Here is Smith’s discussion with the YDR Ed Board. The relevant section is right up front:

Video streaming by Ustream

37 Responses

  1. Tom Smith stands in solidarity with the child waiting to be born. This is clearly a left wing, biased media attempt to try to trip him up. Life has some difficult situations. But destroying the life of a child doesn’t solve them. Abortion is never the solution to a problem. It is the taking of an innocent human life that someone perceives to be a problem.

  2. You are all missing the point here.

    Yes, rape is a traumatic experience for a woman that can lead to the conception of a child. But the old adage “two wrongs don’t make a right” is what is at play here. Smith’s position is that life begins at conception and therefore there is no right to abortion (regardless of the circumstances). His reference to out-of-wedlock birth was to show his understanding about how difficult the decision to carry to term can be. Such a decision in a rape scenario would presumably be more difficult. The point that he tried to make was that Smith believes that the right to life always outweighs the countervailing pressures in favor of abortion.

  3. You people make me lose my faith in humanity… Seriously. It’s 2012 and we’re discussing the validity of the pill or whether a woman has the right to abort if she is RAPED? Really? How can you even consider discussing this? I just… I can’t believe people that think women are just a bowl to create a baby exist. I just can’t believe these people are using religion as an argument to put women under more oppression. It’s just depressing seeing stuff like this. Sometimes, mankind makes me want to vomit.

  4. Interesting that while this is making national headlines, Armstrong County’s only major newspaper doesn’t have a word about it. As usual with the Kittanning Leader Times, if it’s story doesn’t fit into the political of agenda of the same people behind Sen, Don White and Rep. Jeff Pyle, the current Armstrong County School Board, the Armstrong County Hospital and courthouse, it’s brushed under the rug. Take a look at the donors of White, Pyle, Smith, and said school board directors. You will see a pattern. People don’t donate 10k to a school board election unless they’re getting something in return.

  5. Someone should have asked Caribou Barbie for her reaction…after all, BOTH of her grandbaby’s are out of wedlock.

  6. I’m confused. How is it less offensive that if his daughter came to him knocked up by her boyfriend, or whether she came to him knocked up by a rapist, he would have the same answer for her, “It’s just a method of conception, sweetey. You certainly don’t have a choice in the matter. You’ve been blessed.”

  7. Fix the debt, Molly? How? By giving tax breaks to millionaires? By refusing to cut waste from the Defense budget? By forcing women who are raped to have the child? Please, please, please, stop parroting the Tea Party talking points and think for yourself.

  8. I would like to nominate the ultimate pro-life candidate: CLETUS THE FETUS. Unbossed ! Unbought ! Unborn ! He is sponsored by the House Of Suction Drive-in Abortion Clnic. Get rid of the brat in ten seconds flat. Just strap on the hose and there it goes . You’ll be in the pink when t’s scked down the sink.

    Coming soon:Fetus lava lamps..

  9. What is with all this “my body, my decision” stuff? A pregnant woman’s body is simply Not her own. It is hers, plus another life that is dependent on it. Whether by God or by Evolving Nature (whichever you are so inclined to believe) you simply cannot escape that fact.

  10. Thats what happens when you give an unqualified egotist a chance to speak on his own without his safety net of prepared speech there to save him. NOW you’re getting a glimpse of the true Tom Smith. Can you imagine what he would say in Washington if elected? I’m sure his pals, the equally bumbling State Senator Don White and Representative Jeff Pyle are shaking in their shoes. Knowing they’re all peas in the same pod.

    And I can’t help but have sympathy for Tom’s daughter and grandchild to be thrown into the spotlight in this way.

  11. All you speech nazis need to back off. There IS something in common between the unwed mother’s pregnancy and that of the rape victim: neither one wants the child. That’s all Smith was saying. There is another significant similarity: the right to life doesn’t change based on how the life was conceived. Deal with it.

  12. The only thing more terrifying than these know nothing Republican candidates ham fistedly discussing the right to choose and women’s general health?

    The number of WOMEN who are on here supporting them.


  13. If this is what you have to do to get a gotcha moment, it shows just how sorry reporting is.

    The lack of professionalism in journalism is purely disgusting.

    57 states (Obama), we can win NC (in Virginia -VP Biden) back in chains (Biden) all gets a yawn. Hell, they don’t even cover the gaffe machine we have for a Vice President because of his failure to engage his brain before he speaks.

  14. I am really beginning to believe that Republicans are incapable of nuanced thought. In her comment above, Jackie put it so well. In no way are RAPE and consrnsual unprotected sex equivalent. Bob Casey treads the exact fine line I tread. I don’t like abortion as a form of birth control, but I like even less the idea of fat old white men telling women what to do with their own bodies.

  15. Unbelievable the war on women continues is 2012. Doesnt matter…Senator Casey has it locked up anyway. Women who support people like Akin and Smith should be ashamed that they support people who actually try to justify rape

  16. If Democrats weren’t so godless they’d understand the point, that it’s never okay to kill a child. Circumstances of conception don’t negate the right to life of every innocent human being. The common thread in this question is the right to life. Whether a child is conceived in rape, out of wedlock, in wedlock, or in any other circumstance, the child has a right to life. Godless people won’t accept that argument.

  17. I couldn’t agree more, Matthew! That seems to be the problem with our representatives..they haven’t got a clue about things they have all the power to effect. Americans should be terrified.

  18. How can a father say his daughter having children out of wedlock, and becoming pregnant through an act of rape consider those at all similar. Sick sick sick

  19. When a man can conceive and carry a baby to term- well,never mind because even then I wouldn’t agree with these Taliban-lite men who make rules over women’s bodies.

    If you don’t like abortion- well, don’t have one.
    You all do realize that 1/2 of all abortions are performed on ‘pro-life’ women? Sure, they abhor abortions for everyone else, but when they find themselves pregnant somehow they justify THEIR choice to abort.

  20. So if Satan rapes your daughter, you support bearing the demon-child? Since rapists are no better than evil demons. Just sayin…

  21. David, above, says ” Casey doesn’t think that life begins at conception”

    From a Q/A

    Q: The FDA has said that Plan B, the morning-after pill, can be sold over the counter. Are you in favor?

    SANTORUM: No, I’m not. I agree that it is an abortifacient, and that it’s dangerous to give a dose of hormones equivalent to one third of a whole series of birth control pills to someone without any kind of doctor supervision.

    CASEY: Yes, I’m in favor. I think what emergency contraception is contraception.

    Q: But you do believe life begins at conception?

    CASEY: I do.

  22. Joyce your logic defies understanding..I will support you even though you make no sense to me. This is probably the same logic you use when you support the religious cultist Romney..

  23. unfortunately Republicans have been drinking too much of the Romney koolaid..the side effects are flipflopping,loss of memory and loss of common sense.
    Romney told CNN last night “I can’t remember embarrasing and demeaning a fellow student by forcibly cutting his hair against his will” You are a narcistic sociopath that lies continually. I would like to have been there when you recruited Paul Ryan..We will go with your plan .. 48 hours later he throw him under the bus..Your a sick puppy

  24. “Ups and downs of family life?” Similarities of “a young girl making a decision to keep a child or not?” Guys, wake up. There is no comparison between these situations and surviving a rape. Rape is a horrible, violent crime. The instance described here – yes, this “gaffe” – highlights how many of our politicians and policymakers are in no position to make decisions about women’s healthcare and reproductive rights. They haven’t the vaguest idea of what they are talking about.

  25. I’m sorry but I’m getting whiplash from these GOPers. He equates his daughter (i guess that’s who he is referring to) having unprotected promiscuous sex & ending up pregnant the same as rape? His “daughter” CHOSE to continue with this pregancy. Well, being pro-choice (meaning it’s up to the woman), I commend HER DECISION. But then he turns around & says that a woman who experienced a violent act against her most intimate self & gets pregnant because of that violent act HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO DELIVER THAT OFF SPRING OF A RAPIST….well, it makes my stomach turn. Perhaps he should just say that in the future, the Rapist can now choose his “baby mama!”…..ugh

  26. The R’s have had a bad month (ha ha ha). I hope they don’t learn: “when you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

    Fortunately, it looks like the D’s have learned (at least a little): “when your opponent screws up, get out of the way”.

  27. That was no gaffe! – good for Smith – he is pro life, period. This shows he is an everyday person who has lived the ups and downs of family life. That is what we need, not a career politician. Smith is a person with strong consevative values. He still has my vote.

  28. I’m pretty sure that Casey supports exceptions for rape, incest and life of woman. Also, he doesn’t use pro-life as litmus test for Supreme Court.

    Unlike the right-wing, Casey doesn’t think that life begins at conception and ends at birth. Casey supports programs that help young mothers, thus giving those that choose to give birth some support for that decision.

  29. That was a gaffe? What manufactured nonsense. Clearly, he was just trying to show that he understands the human side of making the hard decision to keep a child. He never said the two situations were exactly the same. C’mon.

  30. He clearly was referring to the choice of a young girl making a decision to keep a child or not and a father’s role in her struggle to make that decision… Toms example was a baby out of wedlock their example was rape. He clearly defended the life of the innocent child in any circumstance.

  31. Weak sauce.

    All you amateur PA lib Maddow wannabes know Casey is pro-life, too, right? Like, he’s one of those eeeeevil men who want to “dictate a woman’s health care choices” and stuff.

  32. Tom Smith has no chance in gaining enough support to win a county election let alone a state wide race. And his flipflop from one party to next isn’t winning him anything either. And don’t even get me started on his ties and use of the tea movemnet…. Just do yourself a favor and not vote for either candidate.

  33. May God bless Tom Smith. A truly good man who only wants what is best for this nation. The political sharks think they smell blood in the water but it’s not over yet.

    If we don’t fix the debt and create a better environment for job creation, we won’t need to worry about these social issues because America will cease to exist as we know it.

  34. Word to the wise, don’t say more than you ever have to as it can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion.

  35. He’s 19 points behind. I guess he want’s to set a record loss that no one will ever beat.

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