(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.
A member of the House of Representatives Science and Technology Committee! Your tax dollars at work in the GOP.
I don't know which adjective describes this buffoon's comments more accurately: upsetting or absurd. I hope every female in his family smacks him across the face until he's raw.
ashamed that i vote for the right when people spew hot garbage such as this, even if he misspoke, as a man who represents the people he should never be in such a situation. Another giant leap backwards for republicans.
GOP is great isnt it!!
Watch out, Paul Ryan– you have a new rival for the intellectual leadership of the Republican Party.
I'll bet the neanderthal is for the the death penalty. How does that square with his statement "I believe deeply in the protection of all human life."
"The female body has a way of shutting that whole thing down". What an IDIOT... Akin and Romney should have been in the Olympics. They BOTH could have shown the gymnastics team UNIMAGINABLE ways on how to stick your FOOT in your mouth...
the republican philosophy has always been to deny and misrepresent the truth such that it fits into the tiny ideological box that they call "reality". is anyone really surprised that this man neither understands nor cares to understand how babies are made?
Is this guy serious??? So.. in a hypothetical situation a woman is randomly attacked and raped by an guy, then if she is found to be pregnant she has to take care of a child that she did not want by a man she hates for the rest of her life? Really?!? Is that fare. That is just as much in justice as Hitler killing Jews in World War II, because they were simply Jews!!! Why do we have people like this in office??? WOW!!!
Is this guy the leading candidate for "Neanderthal of the Year" or what?
Oh good Lord I hope people like him will never breed!!
I am really shocked that such stupidity would be spoken. Rape is Rape and if a women gets pregnant by such a crime then it is solely her choice how to deal with it. As an "educated man" you should do your homework and have more sympathy for such crimes and not insert your foot in your mouth. Such stupidity should not be in Washington. That is the problem with our country already.
Gun-loving America is just getting dumber and dumber...
Wow, this is some special kind of idiot.
Wow, what year is this? 2012 BC? and he sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee? – and this guy is confident of victory and may win? Wow.
Pro-Life or Pro-Choice...I think we ALL can agree you can't really listen to someone with a comb-over like that. I mean...I think he's already demonstrated some poor decision making capabilities.
What is it with republicans and their hang up with rape. Remember Clay Williams of Texas?
In the name of all that's holy, who could vote for this cretin!
There's an old saying that the best argument against democracy is a 10 minute discussion of current events with the average voter.
It appears that 30 seconds with this guy would have the same effect.
Political arty affiliation isn't important. This guy needs to resign immediately and never "serve" in office again. Ever. Anywhere.
Sad thing is, I bet most in State office and every single elected member (of both parties) in Washington, D.C. have this level of patheticness (if that's a word – should be for this guy).
This congressman is on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. His statement is an insult to every woman in this country and makes his qualifications to be in elected office questionable. It proves that the conservative philosophy of family values is also questionable. He probably would push the Creationist or Intelligent Design theories in schools. That is exactly the reason such theories should not be taught.I hope the voters of Missouri will take this statement to the polls.
Oh my oh my!! I can't say any thing better than those who spoke before me....it just never ends does it????
Typical republican comment. Surely every member of the GOP and their supporters are cringing right now over the stupidity of one of their own. OMG...this is laughable!
Ah, a good Christian man. What is it about this mythodology that is so hateful of women and so ignorant of basic facts? Yet you can bet if his wife or daughter became pregnant after a rape, they'd be quietly taken care of. I don't know what is worse, the vomit these guys spew or the hypocracy they practice.