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. Hassan Reza

    what does it mean by "legitimate rape"? rape is rape. no matter what.

    August 19, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  2. mike

    He sits on the committee for SCIENCE !

    August 19, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  3. MicaelaMD

    What an idiot! Bet he does get elected! Hope the democrats keep playing that interview in ads.

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  4. GHJ

    OK- I'm a Republican and I even think this guy is a total idiot!

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  5. Yolanda

    WOW...this Legitimate Idiot WILL NOT be receiving my LEGITIMATE VOTE in November!

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  6. Bootstomper

    I guess the humidity in Missouri is as bad as they say it is. Really makes you dumb as dirt.

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

    He sits on the House Committee for SCIENCE !

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  8. TrueGrissel

    If I understand him if a woman is really, really raped she'll not get pregnant, but if she gets pregnant then she Must be Lying or she enjoyed it, thanks for the clarity senator.

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  9. Bill

    Claire McCaskill gets four more years. Thank you, you mindless reprobate.

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  10. KRF

    What I don't understand is how the people of Missouri could allow this man to represent them. He is not only ignorant but dangerous. He is in a position of power and makes decisions impacting girls, women, daughters, sisters and wives. Rape is rape and no girl or woman should be forced to carry a child conceived by such a violent act. While the shame of this disgusting statement rests on Mr. Akin's shoulders the decisions he makes based on such a stupid belief impacts everyone in the state of Missouri.

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  11. TL

    I agree with the candidate's stance on abortion but what an inane comment about rape victims. Why this is a top "news" story on CNN? What a waste of time and space.

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  12. ARaine

    Good grief I'm glad I moved out of that state.

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  13. B

    phylee, no, you are not the only one afraid for the younger women of this country. I just have to hope that they are smart enough, themselves, to get out and prevent people like this from taking office. The assault on women and women's rights lately is staggering. The sheer hatred it implies is nauseating. It's not new, of course; it just somehow seems more open. Maybe that's a good thing, in some way. I sincerely hope that enough progressive people wake up and pay attention rather than letting someone who believes garbage like this slip by.

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

    Did someone from MO tell him to show them he is stupid?

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  15. Awetmedic

    Anybody surprised that it is a republican?

    August 19, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  16. afnmvet

    I wonder what this guy's definition of "legitimate rape" is?

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  17. Tom

    Grand Old Party strikes again.

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  18. bajadelmar

    And he'll be a hero to the Right for saying something completely asinine.

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  19. tullymd

    Women voted for him in the Republican primary. May I say "YOW".

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  20. Dave

    "Akin – who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee..." Seriously? He's on the Science committee? The irony is palpable.

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  21. whatsup

    This guy is a fool...

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  22. Florida girl

    What a jerk!

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  23. Dave

    a legitimate ignoramus.

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  24. Andrew

    Rarely does "lol" mean that I am literally laughing out loud, but in this case I seriously was. And people wonder why this country is in the crapper.

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  25. ZenTiger

    To deny a woman the choice of abortion when she has been raped is a 2ND CRIME upon her.

    August 19, 2012 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
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