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. carol

    Don't forget that his fearless talk-show leader evidently believes that women use birth control pills the same way in which men use condoms, once per 'event'. Heck, even the infamous aspirin-between-the-knees could be used multiple times.

    August 19, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  2. Jennifer Werbe

    CNN please give this LOTS of airplay. People need to know how insane the Republicans have become. Thank God I don't have a daughter of child-bearing age. This man is unbelievably evil.

    August 19, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  3. Reason & Logic

    I believe that Rep. Todd Akin should put his money where his mouth is and offer to adopt a newborn child from a rape victim's unwanted pregnancy.

    August 19, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  4. Syd

    " the cuff remarks." Those often are very telling about what really going on inside someone's head.

    August 19, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  5. Carl

    Deep south Republicans are the Democrats best friends. Idiots.

    August 19, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  6. Hannah

    I can't believe someone would actually say that. Well, I can, obviously. But still. Wow.

    August 19, 2012 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. jdoe

    He doesn't need to retract his statement since it's clear that's what he thinks, as do many conservatives. If they have principles, they should at least have the guts to stick to them.

    August 19, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  8. jaw4

    Why is this man in any facet of government? Who would vote for such an idiot? People please STOP putting morons like this in office.

    August 19, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  9. nintex

    Wait! This guy is on the House Science, Space and Technology committee? Now there's a scary thought! In addition to his views on "legitimate" rape, does someone need to tell him that the world is round and that the earth is a few more than 6,000 years old? How do these people get elected?

    August 19, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. caa3011

    This man had to be put in office by the Tea Party!!

    August 19, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Glad to know the female body has SUPERPOWERS.

    August 19, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  12. greg

    now all ya'll women make sure you vote republican ya'll hear!

    August 19, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  13. PLHM

    Tell me this guy isn't serious... If this guy were in front of me, I'd kick him squarely in his junk.

    August 19, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Is he an idiot?

    August 19, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Pat in IL

    I can't tell if he is just plain stupid, or if he has a genuine, evil hate and disregard for women. Akin is very scary.

    August 19, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  16. Jeff E

    Wow...What unbelievable ignorance. There were 3205 pregnacies as a result of rape between 2004-05, and 1 in every 6 women have had a rape attempt done to them.

    August 19, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  17. gmenfan54

    Is everyone from Missouri this stupid?

    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  18. dcsmith

    As Joseph DeMaestri once said, "Every country gets the government it deserves."


    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  19. Scott

    Just another nut case, and people wander why life is going down the tubes, We elect these type of people to rule us to help us, As long as we do this we are doomed to survive, Next he will say global warming is natural and mankind has no effect on it we need to pump more oil and burn more of the land.

    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  20. WD

    This is why these clowns use teleprompters.

    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  21. Mary

    what an idiot

    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  22. Katie

    It's not the fact that he's Republican. I'm conservative. He's just an ignorant redneck.

    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  23. pbk

    Again, the GOP drains the lake for their candidates. Claire McCaskill is going to save some money from the ad agency as this is one of the bes and its free thanks to Akin. Show it all over Missouri, Sen McCaskill.

    August 19, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  24. TE

    The only reason why "legitimate rape" would be unlikely to cause a pregnancy is because a woman is only fertile for 3/30 days a month – 10% of the time. In addition, 50% of of fetuses will be aborted before they even implant due to chromosomal abnormalities. So, in essence, if you and your rapist are both capable of conceiving, and he hasn't taken a bath for 3 months, you will have a 5% chance of getting pregnant.

    August 19, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Holy cow! What an idiot!!!

    August 19, 2012 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
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