(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.
If the female body had a way to shut "these things down" then there would be no need for abortion clinics.
While I think that "legitimate" is a very poor choice of words, something is very wrong with the stats used in this article. 5% of all pregnancies are from rape? 32,000 pregnancies from rape per year? I just did some Google searches and RAINN's web site says that 62,000 women were raped in 2004-2005 and that about 5% of these rapes resulted in pregnancy, which would only be 3200 pregnancies.
Pretty insane that someone would spout that out.
This is by far one of the stupidest thing I have heard in a long time. "Legitimate rape", really? How about men stay out of women's decisions when it comes to their bodies? Why do people want these types of politicians in office making decisions for them? Ugh!!!!
A woman has total control over her body. There is no debate. This is the 21st century. There's no excuse for comments like that. Republicans will take America back to more regressive times.
He’s a stunningly ignorant man who would be shamed into silence in a rational society.
The punishment should be on the rapist but not the child? Yep but let the innocent women get punished as well. That makes sense
Out of the mouths of politicians...ahhh...I mean babes. (same thing)
This con needs to go to his room and shut up! He has no business running for anything public! He doesn't have a clue!
Lobbyists at work again! We should find out what special interests this guy represent? The National Rapist Association (NRA)!
THis man needs to SHUT UP and hope no one realizes just how mentally regressive he really is. He's the reason I'd never vote Republican.
Lucky for him being an IDIOT is not illegal. This guy should pass an IQ test right away. Only an ideologue talks like that. Trying to condemn the abortion of a fetus is not killing a baby. Democrats don't support abortion. They support the women's right to chose.
Lord have mercy!
What a flaming idiot. Is he another member of the Aryan Nation or just a Republican
Bible or not..abortion is MURDER, idk why liberals cant give these human beings the benefit of the doubt as Ronald Reagan said. Serouisly, so many lives have been losed because of abortion. And if your going to rip on the bible you should really do your research. It is the inerrant and perfect word of God.
How can you even define a "Legitimate Rape"?
The importance of voting this November is crystal clear...we must get this message out~
Why the heck isn't this on the FRONT PAGE!?!?!? This MORON is running for the Senate in Missouri. The women of Missouri need to know what this idiot said and it ought to be in every version of the state's various newspapers – online and print. I cannot believe this ignoramus is running for Senate.
I wouldnt let this so called MAN 1000 feet near my wife or kids. He probably thinks Rape is a sport.
Its hard to imagine such ignorance still exists today. Im willing to bet this is pro death peanlty. People who think like this are dangerous.
And no so-called Republican or Tea Party leaders publically denounced or repudiated this remark? How revolting!
I don't understand how he thinks that quoting statistics about total pregnancies vs. rape pregnancies helps his cause. That ratio is irrelevant and meant to distract and confuse. The number he didn't quote was how many pregnancies result from rape vs. how many women are raped. That might bring a new number which would severely undermine his whole idiotic strategy.
As for unnamed medical mechanisms, I think what he means is that in his mind, a women has some sort of inner defense mechanism that will spontaneously eliminate an unwanted pregnancy due to rape. Because we all know women have magic powers that can pick and choose which pregnancies to keep. We don't even need contraception because it's all a sin anyway!
The American Taliban is alive and well. Why are we sending young people to die in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban,.. when much sinister people are in our midst right here at home?
Yikes. This is another example of the political process favoring the lunatic fringe. I don't think it would be remarkable if he said he firmly opposed abortion, even in the case of rape, but this extra nonesense he throws in makes it clear that he is a nutjob and not qualified to serve in the senate.
Again America, I give you the republican leadership. No Thanks!