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. dcase20

    What a sick and vile individual. Republican, so I can't say I'm surprised.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  2. Rafaela Costa

    Please tell me that this did not happen.....

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. yoda0000

    They say exactly the same thing in Saudi Arabia.

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. TonyInNYC

    He just doesn't seem like leadership material.

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  5. Randy

    I am a staunch conservative and I love the tea party, and I believe this guy is a total idiot and I don't understand why we pay these people. Ridiculous!

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  6. maxine

    what? that is the stupidest thing i have heard in a long time!!!!!

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  7. Joel

    Wow, nice point Dr. Nobody...You're a politician, stick to lies – oh! wait! that is what you are doing!!!! Good job at being an idiot politician who deserves to trade place with the homeless. At least if YOU get raped, your body has natural defenses that keep you from becoming pregnant....it's called testosterone, among other things such as I don't know, missing female reproductive parts? Seriously, I thought Romney was an idiot, and that G.W.Bush put his foot in his mouth alot, but you are really giving them a run for their money with unintelligent egotistical comments. Perhaps if you got your DOCTORATE degree in general medicine or the like someone may believe something you say about the human body. Until then, please stick to other things you don't know about, like what is good for America!

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  8. Mike P

    I wish we had some idea what he was talking about when it comes to this supposed biological defense against rape. But with regard to his principle, I agree: a rape-baby is just as deserving of live as any other baby, accidental or deliberate. We shouldn't try to justify killing children because they were conceived through rape. We should instead execute rapists. Too bad the Supreme Court things the death penalty is only warranted for crimes where a loss of life was involved.

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  9. Bob

    This idiot is done. If this guy wins election after these ignorant, impulsive, galactically stupid comments about women and rape I feel embarrassed for the entire state of Missouri. How shameful.

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  10. Valentine Urbanek

    6 term Congressman? Chair of a science committee in Congress? Tell where where to send contributions to his opponent!

    This is unforgiveable ignorance, nothing moral about his stance. Is censure a possibility?

    Get rid of him now!

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  11. justmeanddog

    Maybe he thinks God reaches out and blocks the Fallopian tubes, or better still reaches in and performs a Divine Vasectomy on the rapist.

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  12. lin

    Can you BELIEVE what the idiot just SAID???? If that man wins the election then that WHOLE STATE is a very SICK state and the rest of this country Better WAKE UP and get off their high horses.
    How sick, how sick

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  13. Dave

    Shouldn't there be a minimum IQ required to be a member of Congress?

    August 19, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  14. DBrennan

    This is not a case of 'mis-speaking'. I have heard this same laughable claim about rapes rarely leading to abortions from the religious right for the past 20 years and counting. This guy knows what he was saying and was trying to score some points with the far-right. Maybe he scored those points and his ridiculous statements will get him a few votes from that group.

    What is the height of lunacy however is that this guy serves on the Science, Space and Technology committee of the House. Really... That is do damned depressing. Other countries have scientists and engineers making national policy in these areas. We have this guy.

    I'm hoping that enough sensible voters sees through the lies and half-truths spun by guys like this and bring some sense back to governance by bringing in some people less beholden to personal ideology.

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

    Repubs seem to know women's bodies better than we know our own bodies. I cringe when they talk about we've got to get big govt out of our lives...I believe we need to get the repubs out of our uterus and out of our bedroom. I can't believe a woman of any age would vote for repubs. They take away viagra, cialis and all those erectile dysfunction pills.

    August 19, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  16. works4me

    Well, well. Why haven't women thought of that before? Shut it down??
    Well there goes the birth control industry. 300,000 jobs?

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

    I guess what he is saying that if you get raped and get pregnant, then you must have wanted it. Typical GOP!

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

    We humans have no reason for being on this planet; we are just here because we are. We take up earth’s limited spaces and crowd the other living things off of the land and we consume earth’s meager resources thus driving the many other living things into extinction. Yet we contribute nothing in return. All we ever do is take, take, take; make, make, make. We never had the right to overpopulate the planet. But there was nothing to stop us! So we went ahead and ran our populations up to billions of humans, not a single one of which was ever needed or important.

    When viewed from that perspective abortion not only is a right, it is a duty. And let us not forget that it was the human male who forced the human female to produce those billions of humans. If left to the women there would have only been a few hundred humans on the planet today.

    August 19, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  19. snugharbor

    And 32,000+ pregnancies per year is rarely?? Is this guy kidding?? What a moron! No pregnancy after a rape is justifiable! Congressman, keep your ideas/beliefs off MY body!!

    August 19, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  20. Bob

    Nothing new.....just your typical dumbing down gop. Just say 'NO' to mittens/munster and the merry band of gop flunkies....

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

    Not only is this guy permanently stuck on stupid but this also speaks volumes about the people who have been sending him back for six terms...!!!

    August 19, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  22. John

    This right here just go to show just how dumb these Republican are. What even make any kind of rape Legitimate , and you on this earth gave the Republican the right to Control the women body.

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

    seriously? Wow. There are no words....

    August 19, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  24. shock to the heart

    We as a human race, have a long long way to go in terms of evolution

    August 19, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  25. Natalie

    Lets not make this a partisan issue... there are dumb people everywhere. This guy has obviously not seen statistics from Africa. I'm sure many of the women raped during armed conflict, or raped just because they are in the wrong place would like to sit down with this guy and explain the hard truth.

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