(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.
He misspoke. That is politicianese for, "I said what I really think but now a lot of people are mad so I have to change it before I lose too many votes."
Republicans will like to remind people that, when it comes to saying dumb things, they will not take a back seat to Joe Biden or anybody.
WOW these people are scary... if you vote republican and you are a woman, something is seriously wrong with you
If you disagree with this guy, you don"t support the troops!
I'm sad that this person is so dumb... I'm a conservative, THIS guy is a nut job. Stick a fork in him (and tell him his body has ways of rejecting it, one being his mouth) And were good! Bye Bye Crazy!
Scary, the GOP are so obviously anti- women
His face angers me....what a trash..
Here is a prime example of the standard GOP/Tea party intelect. Make it up as you go along and then when your shown how idiotic you were you say you misspoke or were taken out of context. Brilliant, just brilliant.
Seriously, politicians of all stripes, GOP and Democrats, should stop giving out opinions about topics they know absolutely nothing about. Just get rid of this idiot in next election!
I am ashamed, as an American, to have unintelligent, inarticulate and overall mentally and socially deficient people represent me and my fellow citizens.
What a moron. Goes to show how ignorant and close minded some politicians are.
I'm a republican and I think this is just wrong
Mr. Akin, just drop out of the race NOW. You're going to lose anyway.
It is amazing how insensitive and ignorant some of our politicians are but It says more about us than them. They are VOTED into office. This has to be one of the weakest most intolerant, self-centered batch of politicians I've seen in office in the last 50 years.
This man is my representative. He lives in the same community as Sheila Davis, a Missouri state rep that said, a year or two ago, that the school lunch program should be abolished, as "hunger is a great motivator." Yep. Republicans both. I fear for my country, with people like these two.
Seriously?! What an absolute idiot.
I' m convinced republicans hate women and sit in their homes and smoked serious weed! This man is 100% certifiable crazy and needs to go to rehab. What a freakin idiot!
Unfortunate choice of words, despite what he intended to communicate.
The sad thing is...he's probably going to be a Senator from Missouri regardless of what he believes.
The idea that there are actually people out there who would cast their vote for this monkey is truly frightening.
This Missouri Republican is just the most ignorant person.
Wow, we does the GOP get these people !
Another Neanderthal politician...
"A legitimate rape"... What is that supposed to be and how come he knows so much about what is considered "ligitimate" and what isn't when it comes to rape... Is he an illigitimate rapest or something...
What and idiot...
Being pro-choice I think it is wrong to make a woman carry a child of rape as a constant reminder of what happened... If she doesn't what the child, then what happens to it after it is born and who pays to take care of it...
If it ends up in the system the odds are greater it will suffer and struggle through life and end up poor or in the streets... So how is THAT better than aborting a child no one wants...
SO, if all you pro-lifers want to be the ones who pay for and are responsible for these kids, then we can stop abortions... BUT, you will actually find very few bleading heart pro-lifers that will volunteer to take any kind of responsibility for these kids after they are born, they only want to force responsibility on the rape victom...
So, does it follow, sir, that if a woman claims rape, but gets pregnant, her claim illegitimate?
This is truly the most ignorant thing I have heard come out of a politician's mouth. Rape is under-reported because of the shame attached to the assaulty. We are not that far removed from a culture that blames the woman for being raped. Many still believe that a woman who gets raped deserved it.
Mr. Akin, in the world of scholarly discourse, it is customary to cite your sources. Please, sir, tell us who these people are who tell you a woman cannot conceive from an act of rape. And may we examine the studies that prove this highly doubtful premise?
Shame on you, Mr. Akin.
What an idiot!