(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.
Last week, Biden. Today, this clown. Utter stupidity knows no political party. If the left would drop their political correctness and the right would drop their suicidal, over-the-top patriotism, we might just have some people in our government who aren't certifiably insane.
Jesus-why would any woman vote for the GOP with this kind of absolute stupidity this man and the rest of the GOP are displaying towards women. People like Rush and the rest of the GOP congress vote and say these stupid things about women. Rape is rape. If a pregnancy result from it, the decision to abort must be that of the woman and her doctor, not the government.
Enough of these wars on women. As a man, I am insulted by this nut, who call himself congressman. American women deserve better treatment than what the GOP is doing. Shame on them.
Keywords here: legitimate rape.
How is rape of any kind, against any gender, considered a legitimate act?
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare" – What's "rare" is him actually talking to Doctors and not out his you know what.
Rep Akin I agree with you, it is kind of like when believing in a ficticious man made god shuts down your brains ability to think correctly or with any kind of common sense. Freaking moron
Wow! I don't know what to say to that except that - one good thing to come out of this will be more exposure of how the christian conservative right is just... plain... dumb.
There is no other way to describe them - wonder if he learned all that in sunday school...
He will be out of a job soon and thank God.
Jon Stewart's going to have fun with this one.
stupid is as stupid does. i mean WOW. do these guys ever think what they would do if their wives were raped and impregnated. would they seriously talk to their wives and say, no you're keeping that baby it's ours! i'm repubilcan but i'm also a realist. jeez, put yourself in someone else's shoes and take a walk moron. oh, and go back to high school health class.
This is just disgusting. Uneducated oafs actually believe this garbage? There's a sucker born every minute.
another idiotic statement made by a republican.
Doesn't he realize what happened to the women and girls of Berlin in 1945 when the Russians arrived. I don't think those Russian babies came from the Easter Bunny. I think he should consult Dr. Ron Paul about medical i9nformation.
The Republicans say they create jobs. All I see is them talking about gay marriage and abortion. Is this supposed to create jobs?
The Republicans say they're for small government. All I see is them legislating gay marriage and abortion. Is this small government?
The Republicans say they want to cut the deficit. But they won't touch defense, which is one of the biggest spenders. Are they serious about the deficit?
Show me a Republican that actually votes for limited government, and I'll vote for him. Until then, forget it.
The absolutel lunacy of his comments boggles the mind. And this is a person who helps make llaws for our country? You go MacKaskill!!! Wish I could vote for YOU!
The mouths and minds of your tea party-backed politicians – the gift that keeps on giving.
Talk about a poor choice of ideas....
Bet he can see Russia from his house!
The mouths and minds of your tea party-backed politicians – the gift that keeps on
Incredible that people like Rep Atkin still believe in such nonsense so common during the Dark and Middle Ages.
And This statement is why I will always vote the Democratic ticket.
If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin continued. Come on ladies lets shut our bodies down so that we can prevent pregnancy. It will save all women money from having to find a birth control method not to become pregnant. I guess we were all to stupid to know this method of birth control was available to us all this time.
As long as the sheep of the world keep voting these guys in, we'll have a government that is clueless.
Sen. McCaskill has to love running against this bozo. Talk about making your job easier...
Is there no end to the stupidity of these zealots?
Some extreme liberal commentator called the GOP "the Taliban of America." Maybe there is something to that after all.
I'm a Democrat, and support keeping abortion legal, but I understand my pro-life friends who regret the destruction of a fetus, and discourage it. I can "get" that point of view. This guy makes all of them look bad. I feel a sense of pity for the pro-life movement right now. That's not something I say very often.