(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.
who is this fool? no wonder we've never heard of him ...
Tell me he did not just say that! How on Earth could someone speak of such ignorance and be elected to public office? Any kind of intercourse can cause pregnancy, consensual or otherwise.
The voters of Missouri should vote this pig-headed chauvinist out of office this November–it would be one less idiot in power.
Well, he just threw that election! NO WAY he'd get elected now!!!
I am an Independent but lean conservative. Based on his comment, if it has been accuratel y reported, this guy is an IDIOT and unfit to run for office.
No wonder our country is in trouble with idiots like this getting elected.
This guy is an idiot. Period. I am as far right as they come, can't stand where the Democrats are taking this country, and I would still vote against this guy. We need to look seriously at having some sort of education requirement for those we elect into office. They should at least be be at the 3rd grade level.
This guy must be a far right republican to make this dumb remark. The far right of the republican party seem to want their party to be of a bunch of idiot. But then again, there is a big maket for idiots.
this shows you the iq of conservative republicans!
I am completely speechless... even if you are opposed to abortion, how can you fix your mouth to utter such nonsense... and this is someone that was elected as one of our nations' leaders....I'm in tears....... very, very sad....
The body has ways of shutting down pregnancies.
The tea party is full of idiots like this, if it it isn't the body doing it naturally it's God will do it for you and if not you need to raise your rape child.
Very scary. He should be ashamed of himself...but since he is a republican, he will never admit a mistake.
yeah, what's legitimate rape? I want to be enlightened by this idiot a little more.....as a former republican I am ashamed, but not shocked at what this party has stooped to thanks to Tea Party folks who do not reflect even the most basic of conservative principles and just use religion to try to jam morality down our collective throats.
Perhaps we can hear some comments from some GOP supporters on defending this irrational statement?..It isn't much different than Paul Ryan's comment that abortion should not be allowed even in the event of incest or rape.What cave did these Neanderthals exit from.And to think they want to lead this country.Pathetic and even frightening to believe that they would make comments of this nature and defend them!
I think we have found him: the smartest damned person on the planet. (sarcasm)
Has this man ever heard of science?
Today was the first time I actually got my wallet out, looked up a Senator, and donated a small amount. Guys, if you are as disgusted by Akin's comments as I am, turn that disgust into dollars and lets make sure McCaskill defeats him.
The body has way to "shut that stuff down?"
I can hear the female brain center saying "Okay. This is a rape. DO NOT release the eggs!!! Repeat. NO EGGS!!!"
HOW can people be that stupid?
That's just stupid. Looks like Mr. Akin's gonna be on the wrong side of the election this November.
LMAO, the fact that I didn't even need to open the article to confirm that this was a Republican speaks volumes about ALL Republicans.
How can I put this so that it does not sound rude? You know I can't. This chap is a frakin idiot. He is so stupid it is a wonder that his body can actually function.
Are you KIDDING ME? We have the dumbest ppl in this country.
morning after pill....there is no reason for abortions anymore none whatso ever.
The fact that I didn't even need to open the article to confirm that this was a Republican speaks volumes about ALL Republicans.
It's hard to believe that in this day and age people still think and talk like that.
Now I understand why we search for extraterrestrial intelligence. If one were to judge human beings on the basis of the article above, there would appear to be very little in the way of 'smarts' to be found on Earth.