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Controversial ad causing congressional race to heat up

A political ad is making waves in the race for the 24th congressional district. At issue, is a piece of legislation regarding federal funding for abortion, specifically the language regarding rape victims who want an abortion.The television commercial, produced and paid for by Democrat Dan Maffei's campaign, attacks incumbent Republican Congresswoman Anne Marie Buerkle's support for a proposed bill that would have defined rape as only forcible rape, in the context of federal funding for abortion.

The ad has drawn a sharp response from Buerkle. She told reporters that to say she redefined rape is just not true, because the bill Maffei refers to was one of several versions of the legislation, and the forcible rape definition didn't make the final cut.

"There was language in one of the bills that circulated that was consistent with FBI definitions  of rape from many, many years ago. Once that was called to our attention, we had conversations that we had to pull that language," said Buerkle.

And the congresswoman contends her record shows her support for all victims of rape.

"I know in my baby finger more about domestic violence and rape, and what women experience, and the trauma of what women go through than Dan Maffei could ever imagine, and what he did with this ad is wrong, is desperate, pathetic and an insult to any woman who's been a victim of domestic violence," said Buerkle.

Maffei meantime, says even if the language of the bill did change, the intent did not.

"Why did she co-sponor this bill with the language in it?  I think it's wrong.  Maybe she didn't understand it.  I have no idea. But the record is all we know, and the record is that almost as soon as she got to Congress she co-sponsored a bill with this language in it that would parse rape and rape victims into different categories," he said.

Maffei told reporters, "You don't co-sponsor a bill in Congress unless you agree with what's in it, and you read it. I believe she also knew what she was doing."

The definition of rape has become a hot button issue in this election cycle, ever since Missouri Republican candidate for Senate Todd Akin provoked a political firestorm over what he called "legitimate rape."

Maffei and Buerkle are running neck-and-neck in the race for the 24th Congressional District, one many consider one of the most competitive House races in the country. Green Party candidate Ursula Rozum is also running.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.