(CNN) – U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who won Missouri's GOP Senate primary earlier this month and will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in November's general election, said Sunday that he misspoke when he claimed "legitimate rape" rarely resulted in pregnancy.
Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy.
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"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy in an interview with KTVI. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted "legitimate rape."
He added: "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
In a statement Sunday, Akin wrote that he misspoke in the interview. He maintained his opposition to abortion for victims of rape.
"In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," Akin wrote. "Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve."
"I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue," Akin continued. "But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election."
Statistics on pregnancies that result from rape are difficult to produce, since rape is a crime that often goes unreported. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, along with Planned Parenthood, each estimate that 5% of rapes lead to pregnancy. A 1996 study from the Medical University of South Carolina found the same percentage, adding that 32,101 pregnancies occurred annually from rape.
Akin, a six-term U.S. congressman, touted his socially conservative values on the primary campaign trail, and gained the support of 2008 presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He was one of the first members of Congress to join the Tea Party Caucus in 2010 and has easily won re-election in recent years.
The lawmaker raised a notable $2.2 million this cycle, as of July 18.
Akin - who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee - has long held a hard-line stance on abortion. He is opposed to abortions in all circumstances, and has said he also opposes the morning after pill, which he equates to abortion.
McCaskill, who is up against Akin in November's general election, almost immediately struck upon her opponent's comments Sunday, writing on Twitter: "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."
She later released a statement condemning her rival as "ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape."
“The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive," she continued.
McCaskill's website also splashed Akin's comments across the homepage, and included a link where supporters could donate money to McCaskill's campaign.
Republicans consider McCaskill, first elected in 2006, highly vulnerable in her re-election bid for a second term. Ahead of the GOP primary, a Mason-Dixon poll showed the senator falling behind each of the three main GOP competitors in hypothetical match-ups among registered Missouri voters.
A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney wrote that the presumptive GOP presidential nominee and his running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, did not share Akin's sentiments on rape.
"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 campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.
CNN's Ashley Killough, Kevin Liptak and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.
How does an idiot like this get to run for Congress...I need a job,,
reelect Sen. McCaskill and send this guy with the intellect of a grape to his lousy home.
Once again, the devaluation of the woman and her plight in a man-driven world by the GOP. Just splendid...
Meanwhile our vice-president continues his assault on good taste and intelligence.
This is the kind of ignorance and stupidity that appeals to the GOP base. This is the kind of man that, given the choice, they elect. No, they wouldn't want to vote for an educated, progressive, informed candidate, would they?
This is the problem with the secret ballot: We can't round up the idiots who voted this man into office and just beat them.
How do you respond to someone who would make such a ridiculous statement as this man has voiced?
i'm a republican but if indeed this is what he said he is ignorant. I have not read the transcript but the media has a way of spinning it their own way. there are idiots on both sides of the fence. some are way too far to the right and some way too far to the left. we really need an overhaul of this system. to many idiots are leading our way.
Ah, a Republican said that? File under: not surprised.
Own it, Republicans. Own. It. You all created this nonsense. Deal with it.
Legitimate rape must only happen in Boys youth camp.
Yikes...just yikes. creepy...
and this fool is on the "Science" committee?
Lord help us all!
How people like this stay in office is totally beyond me. You would think with social media these idiots would actually think before they open their mouths
It is obvious that Akin lives in the state of denial given his obvious comb over (denial of his own physical attributes). Now where is Mis-oh-ri on the national scale of education?
ROFL. Wow. I'd like to hear his theories talk about other injustices. If someone is pushed off a ledge does gravity prevent the person from dying because that is just?
Where, exactly, is the scientific basis for these claims? Oh wait, there is none.
This man is so completely clueless as to what happens to the person being raped. Apparently he has never been raped. His tune might change if he had been.
Idiocy, like water, always finds its level. This person ;that is the best respectful way that I can describe him as, has just overcome physics and shown that his level of idiocy surpassed even physical laws!
How can such a person be running for the US Senate. Have we gone insane? Has the level and quality of our voters sunk so low?
Anyone who votes for such a completely mindless human as Akin doesn't deserve the privilege to vote!
It is an absolute disgrace to be an American these days due to the blithering idiots we have running the place! It's equally as embarrassing due to the ignorant who are too distracted by reality TV to go beyond the shallow spin and then cast their misinformed vote for these mindless chumps!
This guy is an idiot, and the voters in his district should throw him out. I hope the GOP leadership speaks up and points out what cruel, ignorant nonsense his position is.
Just goes to show that Nancy Pelosi does not have the market cornered on stupidity!! This guy is a mental giant!! Be sure to re-elect this one Missouri!!!
"...the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down".
I don't think this guy has ever come close to a female body in his entire life.
In reply to CanadaONE: The U.S. is not stupid, but there sure are some dummies in the Republican party, especially those in the Deep South.
Get him off the House Science, Space and Technology Committee
Legitimate rape? I wonder how the senator would feel about this issue if HIS wife, sister or daughter were "legitimately raped". Please engage brain before speaking.