August 19th, 2012
04:32 PM ET
10 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. A True Blue Democrat

    ...And just how is rape "legitimate", Rep. Akin?

    August 19, 2012 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. labman57

    Once again, a socially-regressive conservative politician demonstrates his unwillingness to do his homework before taking a stand on important policy positions affecting the American people. Lord knows we don’t want to be informed about the fundamentals of human biology and medical treatments when creating legislation that would impact the health of girls and women throughout America.

    And we certainly don’t want our national leaders to be eloquent, scientifically literate, and generally well-informed about the world in which we live. Much better to derive scientific theories based on the teachings of the Bible, and to form national public policy based on the rumors, gossip, and unverified anecdotal accounts taken from online blogs.

    August 19, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  3. PJ

    Sometimes I truly can't believe the stupidity spoken by some of the these men.
    What does "unnamed medical mechanisms that prevent pregnancy" even mean? Contraception? Abortion?
    Morning after pill? Nope, he is against all of this. How did he become so educated on the subject?
    I can't think of anyone less capable of being in Congress than this guy, and all like him.
    Tea Party and Mike Huckabee endorsements are all it takes to turn me away............ and then he spoke.
    Wow, unbelieveable.

    August 19, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  4. labman57

    The mouths and minds of your tea party-backed politicians - the gift that keeps on giving.

    August 19, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  5. CanadaONE

    WOW this makes the USA look real stupid – did he really say this??

    GOP home of STUPID people

    August 19, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. readingyou

    The sheer idiocy of this man... It boggles. Just boggles.

    August 19, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. phylee

    Did this man really just say this? Is this the type of person we want making laws for our country? I am a woman living in a red state. I'm way too old to worry about pregnancy. I have to say, I am terrified for the younger women in this country. We now have a bunch of "Archie Bunkers" controlling women's bodies. What has happened to women's rights? How did we sit here and allow this to happen? Oh, yes. The tea party and the Koch brothers. Am I the only one afraid for the future of women?

    August 19, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. Evergreen

    If it's the rape of young boys and men he is right it won't result in pregancy. As a woman, I don't need or won't this person making health decisions for me. I've never heard such garbage.

    August 19, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Daniel

    Talk about poor choice of words.

    August 19, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  10. Mario Heusmann

    Can we say foot in mouth. The only possible conclusion i could come with, for the dumbest answer of the year award, was that he really believes most Americans hold the same point of view. That is beyond scary to think that there are more people like him floating around

    August 19, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. beckrmr

    It hurts sooo much to read this.

    August 19, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. False Prophet

    Okay .. let me see if I get this this.. .this man actually honestly believes that when women are raped their bodies naturally abort the pregnancy? Is that what he is actually saying? Yeah, I bet the stork delivers babies and blood is really made of fire. Where did he get such crack-pottery?

    August 19, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. Lisa

    This is as genius as Whoopi Goldberg stating the difference between a rape and a rape rape. Some people.

    August 19, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. pkrbkr

    Just what qualifies this man to say such things? The stupidity of his statements is unbelievable!

    August 19, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  15. flea

    And i guess that this guy is a "Legitimate" politician, shutting down parts of his brain every time he opens his mouth.

    August 19, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. gee

    Another nut job bending to ultra conservative tea party.

    August 19, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  17. degazmatic

    this my friends, is the modern gop. the republican party no longer represents what Abraham Lincoln stood for. the party has been going down the drains since Reagan... now it is being hijacked by teabaggers. palin, bachman, nugent, all wackos... wonder why karl rove said that educated people vote democrat?

    August 19, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  18. VotingforWomen'sRights

    What? Who IS this person? And why does he hold any kind of office where he can get free health care on my dime while he spouts this kind of insane belief hocus pocus and vote against abortion rights. Sir you want to tell that to the 12 year olds who are raped by their family members and have to carry through with a pregnancy? Really you should be turned out of office as soon as possible. Without your federal healthcare.

    August 19, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. tacos22

    It's so wrong it hurts. It's physically hurting me to read this, it's so, so wrong – and what in the world is a "legitimate" rape? Is he implying the evil abortion-getting women are lying about getting raped? Or do certain kinds of rape not count? What criteria for "legitimate" would he like to impose on the traumatized victims, exactly? And maybe, just maybe, abortions following rape isn't about punishing anybody at all, but maybe it's about protecting the mental and emotional, and occasionally even physical, health of someone who's just been violated in one of the worst possible ways.

    I am perfectly fine with people not wanting abortions – that is completely your opinion, and I get that the abortion debate is complicated because of all the other issues attached to it, from the moment ending a pregnancy is ending a life to a woman's right to control her own body. But goodness is there a difference between opposing or supporting abortion, and just spewing nonsense. "Legitimate" rape – nonsense.

    August 19, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. Dave

    This is the norm of the new GOP. Uninformed, unintelligent and just plain ignorant. If R&R get in the highest office in the land, we are truly hosed!

    August 19, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  21. degazmatic

    this my friends, is the modern gop. the republican party no longer represents what Abraham Lincoln stood for. the party has been going down the drains since Reagan... now it is being hijacked by teabaggers. palin, bachman, nugent, all wackos... wonder why karl rove said that educated people vote democrat?

    they hate civil rights and equality... if your a woman, minority, poor, educated, sick, elderly or disabled person IT IS AGAINST YOUR BEST INTERESTS TO VOTE FOR TODAY'S REPUBLICANS...

    don't let your hatred for Obama blind you. at least vote for johnson

    August 19, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  22. shan

    @PJ – maybe he means a hostile womb?????

    August 19, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  23. Mike D

    Notice how he has no regard for the woman that will have to carry this pregnacy to term then raise the child with no help because this clown wants to cut all social programs that would help a single mom raise this child!!

    August 19, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  24. You People Aint Seeing Our Tax Returns

    Sounds like Paul Ryan.....wait, is it a GOP mentality?

    August 19, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  25. G Smith

    You must be kidding..Legitimate Rape!!

    What is the GOP doing??? Another GOP wingnut is born?...Talk about legitimate rape...of US principles, intelligence and decency

    August 19, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
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