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. EmeraldCity

    Once again, another neanderthal crawls out of Mississippi to make headlines. Hard to believe that, in the 21st century, hicks like this are allowed to even drive a car, let alone serve in Congress and sit on – of all things – the House "Science, Space and Technology Committee"?!?

    The only province he must hold, among all three of those things, is Space. Because he has plenty of it between his ears.

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  2. Medeses

    So, Rep. Akin, when I was raped as a child was it a legitimate or illegitimate rape? I didn't get pregnant–I was only 9. Please, I want to know. You seem to be very smart and knowledgable.

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  3. Judy

    This is the kind of stupidity that we keep electing to office. I say that we pass a law that you have to have some intelligence before you can run for any office. I am truly at a loss for words that someone could be this stupid. But, sadly, it's not just him. Listen to most politicians. 99% of what comes out of their mouths makes no sense.

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    Doh! How ignorant is this guy???

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. ArtInChicago

    Misspoke? Perhaps if you didn't get sleep for 52 hours AND were having withdrawals from crack.

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  6. billy jester

    If this wasn't so tragic, it might be funny. But the hair do THAT IS FUNNY AS HECK!! Take your place in the combover hall of fame, congressman.

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  7. Bob

    If it helps , he probably won't be reelected.

    August 19, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  8. andrew

    If women in the United States lay their bodies down at the feet of men such as Todd Akin, they will have done no less than sell-out women's very lives for the 'whims' of ONE dogmatic fool. I believe Akin's words to be a felony crime. I believe Akin is among the most hateful and dangerous men ever to be born.
    I will not allow such a hateful man to be make law concerning the women in my life. To do so would be to sentence them to certain death. I challenge the men of Missouri to reach down between their legs and 'check' if they've still got a set, because it LOOKS like they don't got 'em! Who's wearing the pants for these men in Missouri; Akin?

    August 19, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  9. EmeraldCity

    Once again, another neanderthal crawls out of Mississippi to make headlines. Hard to believe that, in the 21st century, h i c k s like this are allowed to even drive a car, let alone serve in Congress and sit on – of all things – the House "Science, Space and Technology Committee"?!?

    The only province he must hold, among all three of those things, is Space. Because he has plenty of it between his ears.

    August 19, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. RB

    It is extremely rape for rape to result in a pregnancy for several reasons
    A woman is only fertile about 25 % of the month, many rapist use condoms to prevent DNA testing
    A rape is extremely tramatic to the victim which causes a defensive mechanisms by her body to the attack
    And victims which go to the hospital after the attack have procedures which all but eliminate the possibility of pregnancy
    But a rape still in rare cases results in a pregnancy

    But planned parenthoods claim that 5% of all pregnancy are the result of a rape is total BS
    That would be 1 in 20 or over 2,000 births per day in US

    I agree that all life is sacred but I would not want to force a woman who was the victim of a rape to be forced to carry the child of her attacker

    August 19, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  11. Peter

    I thought this was a joke until I read the article.

    What the hell is with these people? Some of these extreme right wing folks seem to have no need for medical professionals and just make up stuff.

    So far, I have learned from them that:

    1) Being gay is a choice. Some people just decide to be gay because it is hip or cool or something.

    2) The female body shuts down when it is a forced rape so pregnancy is avoided.

    3) Soy causes someone to be gay (check the crazy story on the right wing WorldNetDaily site. They are serious!)

    4) Terry Shaivo was alive regardless of what eight doctors said.

    5) Michael J. Fox is faking it.

    What next from these whack jobs?

    August 19, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  12. Stephanie Redding Pfeiffer

    So the chick I changed her dressing every day for 2 weeks, who got her cast off when she was 6 weeks pregnant...who had a baby 8 months later, prematurely...yeah...rare...yet in my lifetime it's happened twice...whats his definition of "rarely". I've known FOUR people who have become pregnant because of rape and 2 that carried their babies to term because of their beliefs....and ya know what? I respect ALL FOUR! Speaking for myself....I was NOT a choice. I should have been.

    August 19, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  13. RufusJane

    an OXYMORON if I ever heard one. Legitimate Rape is not possible

    August 19, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  14. JL

    Now I understand why our Country has the problems it does. Stupid Old Men discussing Women's Health issues etc,etc. That they know nothing about.

    August 19, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  15. Impressive

    Oh, I thought everyone knew this. It's just comparable to how legitimate murder rarely results in death.

    August 19, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  16. Wha???

    I am a 63 year old woman living in a very red state, and I fear for the future of my granddaughters and nieces. With politicians with no understanding at all of human anatomy, such as this man, making policy in Washington that affects women, I'm afraid girls and young women in America are doomed. Doomed. What the hell is "shut that whole thing down" anyway? Is he afraid to say the word "rape" or "impregnate?" This is depressing, folks!

    August 19, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  17. Oscar Pitchfork

    Nothing is more entertaining than watching well-dressed, articulate people, ESPECIALLY POLITICIANS, try to sound smart by speaking, out loud, matters that they actually haven't the slightest idea about, and reveal themselves to be the idiots we all know they are.

    August 19, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  18. James

    I doubt Todd Akin will win the election now. And deservedly so. That's just plain nuts to say something stupid like that. What the heck are you thinking ?–What Cave has this guy been living in ?

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  19. DoktorMo

    "Legitimate rape" suggests rape that is legal. As a congressman and a human in our society, Akin should be aware that rape, notwithstanding his views on abortion, is neither legal nor ethical. ..Maurice.

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  20. RB

    To pcct99: maybe it is the liberal NUTS that should be smited from the face of the Earth
    You are callous liberal idiot, based on your comment wishing death to people which do not have the same beliefs as you

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  21. Steve

    Which is dumber.... him or the people of Missouri... he is actually ahead in the polls... i feel really embarassed for those supporting him...

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  22. cindy

    I think his comb-over is affecting his brain cells.

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  23. Please

    Hmm. I see where the Republican trend is going.

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. Ivy

    What a complete and idiotic MORON! Way to ensure you WON'T be re-elected

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  25. Tony Adams

    Certainly NOT to wish this one anyone's daughter, but if Todd's daughter were brutally raped and thus became pregnant, I'd certainly like to hear his position then.

    The government should have NO SAY on this issue. NONE. No matter one's position on pro-choice or the right-to-life advocates.

    VICTIMS of crime (i.e., women who have been raped and then assaulted AGAIN by the rapist in a certain unwanted pregnancy) should be PROTECTED by the government, not victimized again.

    Todd Akin – you are so WRONG on this... it just staggers the mind. For those that oppose Obama – for the gazillion reasons to oppose him, all I can say is good luck. Many Missourians want Claire McCaskill OUT, but putting this horrible, HORRIBLE person in her place is far worse than Obama – and that is saying a great deal.

    August 19, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
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