(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.
Rep. Akins is the smartest person in the whole GOP
This is not for real.
I can't agree more with the many comments already made. Just sheer stupidity on this guy's part. No, actually not supidity..total right wing consevatism at it's worst!
Everyone who reads this cr@p should show it to 10 other women and they in turn show it to 10 more and say "This is what awaits you if the Republicans get into power. This proves that the Republicans = 10 Pinnochios and are memebers of the Flat Earth Society.
Unfortunately, none of that was a "gaffe". This ininformed ignoramous believes if he says it, then we'll accept it as fact. This is a tea-bagger, a founder of what we now refer to as Tea Party. He ain't no party.
Take away his medical licence.
Obviously this is the kind of person one wants to represent them in the US Senate. How did this mo ron even get to this stage in the election process? The state of Missouri – of course that explains it!
Enough is enough. Time to get rid of these crazy gopt america. Vote straight dems in november or we will live to regret it. For the sake of your children and the world. Release the tax returns.
PLEASE people, don't vote Republican! These tea party folks are damaging the country with their lies, hate and intolerance. They need to sit this one out and see how the Republican party comes back in 2016.
Knew he was crazy. Just didn't know the extent of his particular disease. Now, I do.
Typical Republicon. Too stupid to figure out that saying stuff like that is not only wrong, but it's a sure way to lose votes.
He should be sued for his irresponsible and stupid comments. Some crazy guy may believe this lunatic.
Republicans should be ashamed of them selves to have such a low life Gop bum representing them ,vote Dem ,Dem landslide in Nov !!!!
I can't decide which of these multiple things is more outrageous – this guy's level of ignorance of medical science, his unbelievable level of misogyny, sheer idiocy, or his unadulterated, pure evilness.
If men could become pregnant, we would have abortion vending machines at every corner.
The statement that most concerns me is "legitimate rape". What does he consider "illegitimate rape"?
I would also like to know exactly how a woman's body automatically rejects an unwanted pregnacy as a result of rape.
Another attack on women from the republicans.
there is an all out war against women and these sleaze just love hurting their mothers, sisters and daughters.
An opinion, I presume, based solely on his extensive experience in being an ignorant, self-important windbag?
It defies comprehension that the GOP would offer a person of such profound ignorance as a candidate for national office.
Oh you're being mean,,,Rep. Akin just "mis-spoke" , he's a Family Man with Christian Values.... I know because his Republican friends said so
Poor choice of words? How about poor choice of beliefs?
Well folks !!! LOL...This is what we have in this country. This represents the Republican Party. They ALL think like this and truely believe we should go back to the moral values of the 1700,s really. Whay do you think this election is so important ? These are the kind of people who will pass laws that belong in the Middle East or back in the Nazi time. That guy Paul Ryan ? You better do some research and find out that he feels the same way on abortion and all women who have an abortion weather they got raped or not should go to Jail. These are the kind of people who are trying to get in the W/H and take Power of the country.
That is a sad comment. Rape rarely results in pregnancy........ What kind of statement is that. What about the female who does get pregnant from a rapist? What is she to do about "rarely". Is it rare that there are rapes? Come on folks.
Everywhere you look, Republican men are leading an all out assault on American women.These conservatives are really something, aren't they? They are all in favor of the unborn, they will do anything for the unborn, but once you're born, you're on your own! Pro-life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception to nine months. After that they don't want to know about you, they don't want to hear from you Oh yes and "let a baby be born" to a mother who cannot care for it or someone who does not want it and then whose responsibility is it? Yours The conservative position SHOULD be to cover birth control so as to lower abortion rates.
A "legitimate rape"?? Ae you as stupid as you look??