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. Shakira

    Wow just wow. First off there is no such thing as legitimate rape. Second, the stupidity of this man just boggles the mind.

    August 19, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  2. Dale

    Much like Joe Biden, this guy used unfortunate words. He did not mean "legitimate" rape obviously. That being said, his unscientific analysis is pretty absurd. This is yet ANOTHER reason you don't want your government making medical decisions for you. And that is NOT just reserved to reproductive rights. Politicians are not doctors, yet with Obamacare, they're going to be the ones making the care decisions for us. That is scary.

    August 19, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  3. Leftcoastrocky

    Do either of Governor Romney or Congressman Ryan agree with republican Akin's "medical" opinion? MSM needs to ask them.

    August 19, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  4. stupid9

    Legitimate rape!!!! This neanderthal really knows what he is talking about

    August 19, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  5. hcx

    This man is beyond stupid. Where do they get these ideas?

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  6. Sue

    Open mouth. Insert foot.

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  7. Tom

    Yet another backwards old man with anachronistic ideals that are completely detached from reality. You guys do realize you're voting against yourselves when you put these sorts in office, right?

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  8. Leftcoastrocky

    I need to obtain and consult a Wingnut Dictionary to learn the definition of "legitimate rape."

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  9. winduken

    The subtext here is far more insidious than just something said against abortion.

    The theory being proposed by Akin and his cohort is that if a pregnancy resulted from a rape, the woman must have given consent; else her body would have shut down the conception pathway.

    So, if Akin's idea is encoded into law in some way, when a rape happens and a pregnancy results from that, the rapist can use that pregnancy to argue that the rape was just a consensual encounter and must be freed. This is, by far, the worst idea that members of the Tea Party have come up with to violate women right!

    The Tea Partiers are full of these ideas and they try to pass laws based on them. Another example was Paul Ryan's idea to define life as starting at the point of fertilization. This would logically lead to attempted murder prosecution of women taking the morning-after pills.

    The only way to stop this sort of nonsense is for everyone who is concerned enough to go the poll in November and vote against all Tea Party candidates!

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  10. tramaine

    Right. SO you want ME to be the innocent victim TWICE? WHat if I don't want to have that life IN MY BODYY? Would u? Why should I have to? You are an idiotttt

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  11. C Bauer

    This guy sounds like the GOP's Joe Biden.

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  12. keithet

    Isn't there something about being appointed, elected or promoted (in this guys case) way beyond your level of competence??

    August 19, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  13. mk1

    As was said above, the mind of the tea party at work, if you consider it a mind at all. If women need any more convincing that a vote for the GOP in any way shape or form is a vote against their best self interests and a vote to move our country back to the dark ages, all they need to do is look to Missouri for the truth of where the right stands. Truly scary to think where these idiots want to take this country.

    August 19, 2012 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  14. Norman

    Maybe Todd Akin's parents should have thrown away the baby and raised the afterbirth. He's an embarrassment to the conservative party...really.

    August 19, 2012 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  15. Todd_Akin_is_BS

    "unnamed medical mechanisms... prevented pregnancy" hmmm, only religious nuts would imply that god = unnamed medical mechanisms!

    August 19, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  16. Norman

    Maybe Todd Akin's parents should have thrown away the baby and raised the after-birth. He's an embarrassment to the conservative party...really.

    August 19, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  17. John

    Another new low for the GOP. And I thought they had hit rock bottom with Palin ... then Bachmann ... then Louie Gohmert's "terrorist babies." Can't wait to see what they come up with next.

    August 19, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  18. Norman

    Mr. Akin also believes that if you travel far'll fall off the edge of the world.

    August 19, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  19. Uncle_Ray

    I'm more shocked by the reaction to this yahoo than his actual words. This moron didn't even know he had done something wrong until someone else told him what a nitwit he was, and then he ATTEMPTED to re-phrase his comments.

    But I know that this way of thinking is shared by all of the Republican hierarchy who don't trust women, minorities, or any American who isn't wealthy. Don't be shocked-there is nothing that they will not say or do to protect their wealthy overlords. The only "LEGITIMATE" rape is what the Republicans are doing to this country.

    August 19, 2012 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  20. Will S

    Who would vote for this guy? Even in Miseryourri

    August 19, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  21. ckerst

    This level of ignorance defines the republican party.

    August 19, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  22. TomAkinFan

    what a good, descent man. he said "I think there should be some punishment" for the rapist. I also sometimes think there should be some amount of punishment of rapists, too. Not too much, but some. Maybe a year on probation. Todd Akin is a good leader with a good understanding of women and rape statistics.

    August 19, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  23. Elizabeth

    I guess he doesn't believe that what happened in Serbia is real either, or that in vitro fertilization is possible. Human women have no means of scraping out sperm from the inside of the abdomen: a man's sperm invades any place inside a woman's body. It is not necessary for a woman to like the experience for her to become pregnant. Nor are most sperm killed by the acidity inside a woman; plenty survive in their quest for an egg. Nor will a woman's body automatically reject the implantation of an egg; there is no magic hormone shift to prevent the egg from attaching itself.

    I am a rape victim, and I am sick of the pseudo science that men further attack women with. Haven't they raped us enough?

    August 19, 2012 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Avi Shlomo

    It is amazing that republicans always have knack "pseudo-manufactured knowledge" about every thing form Global warning to rape, Health, financial expediency to faith. I call it an arrogant exercise in demagoguery and here is an example of a buffoon.

    August 19, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  25. Tom

    The GOP is full of crap!

    August 19, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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