August 19th, 2012
04:32 PM ET
2 years ago

Missouri Republican claims 'legitimate rape' rarely results in pregnancy

(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.


Filed under: Abortion • Missouri
soundoff (758 Responses)
  1. Rose

    Is this a joke? I am so embarrassed to be from this state.

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  2. JB

    And this guy is on the Science, Space and Technology committee???? We are truly in trouble if people like this make decisions for all of us.

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  3. michelle

    WHAT?????
    and please define 'legitimate rape' mister.....a rape is a rape. end of it.

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Oh well another politician seals their fate.

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  5. Maria

    I think he has right to have an opinion on the matter. He was asked a question and answered it honestly, there is nothing stupid in what he said. He stressed the importance of saving life of an innocent baby, what is wrong with that that makes everybody so angry and call him stupid. He is also right that it is extremely rare to become pregnant after rape.... Why is it CNn news???

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  6. Sherry

    What an absolutely pathetic thing to say! How dare this MAN tell a woman she has "mechanisms" ...VOTE THIS MAN OUT OF OFFICE! I bet he is all for making sure every man in america has access to Viagra....I'm so mad, I can hardly think let alone type! CREEP!!!!

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  7. pambenn

    Just when you think they couldn't be more stupid...this guy is a complete IDIOT.

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  8. FastEddie

    That will be a win for the Democrats.

    August 19, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  9. Adam Clemons

    These are the levels that you have to stoop to in order to defend insane ideas. Nobody should be surprised by this nonsense. If this drivel cannot open your eyes to the anti-science/anti-logic/anti-compassion of the movement against Women's rights, may God have mercy on your soul.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  10. Swearengen

    Thanks Rep. Todd Akin for once again showing the world that stereotypes regarding the intellect of the American South are well placed.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  11. Hayley

    There have been so many things happening over the past 15 years in the US because of it's ridiculous right wing 'religious' politians that have changed the country from leader of the world to laughing stock of the world, but this pretty much takes the cake. Are you living in 2012 or 1612?

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  12. joe bob

    why does it have be blamed on conservatism, etc.? It's a stupid comment period. Just like Biden's. Most of these people in DC are generally not very smart. All parties too. I don't know why America assumes they are any brighter than anyone else? They typically have old money and connections throughout. It is what it is.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  13. Unbelievable

    So that's why so many Republicans are also against contraception. They actually think that women can just shut down their body at will to not become pregnant.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  14. Joe Swanson

    How come most people who are against abortion are men. How can a man tell a woman what to do with their bodies? If you are against abortion, then don't have one. Seems logical to me, then again America has no logic.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  15. drefromla

    lol, bye-bye election.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  16. Fred M.

    Yeah, you wouldn't want to vote for one of those "intellectual elites" who you rail against, would you GOP voters?

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  17. LeBar

    Oh.... my..... GOD!

    SERIOUSLY?

    Paterno didn't know what sodomy meant, and now this guy?

    I hope this man doesn't have daughters, & if he does, they need to emancipate themselves away from this nut-case as soon as humanly possible.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  18. Joe di Leo

    I wish someone would tell me how in the world so many ignorant and stupid people came to fill the seats of our national assembly.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  19. Patricia

    If you are going to oppose abortion, you should oppose it completely and not selectively. I understand his stance, and the idea of "don't pushing the child, punish the rapist" resonates with me. It's a distasteful situation and an extreme case of course.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  20. Steve J

    It's like he felt sorry for McCaskill, being the the most likey Dem senator to get knocked out, and wanted to even things up. Know wonder she wanted him to win a tought primary fight.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  21. Ireportwo

    Ladies remember to ask your rapist if it's a legitimate rape so you'll know if you will be getting pregnant or not. Because according to Akin our bodies know how to shut those type of rapes down and we won't get pregnant.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  22. Ahsan (Pakistani in the US)

    This guy and some significant members of GOP seem to resemble the Talibans whom we are fighting against and have sacrificed precious young Americans. We have people like this man in America? No wonder we are a 'joke" in front of the whole world. I would expect men like him in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudia Arabia who are nut cases.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. Paul

    As ignorant as dirt.

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  24. cykill

    there's a last termer...

    August 19, 2012 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  25. rosemary janes

    What an idiot!!!! Do you have daughter, sister or mother? So if they get raped its okay and let them suffer 9 months with daily agony. Better yet let's have more unwanted unhappy children born that we pay taxes to support then they can grow up and go shoot innocent people.

    August 19, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
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