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. JB

    I am shocked that someone on the sciens, space and technology committee can make such comments. Obviously this fellow is not only ignorant and stupid, I wonder how he could be elected for this committee – what a bigot!

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  2. sportreform

    the spotlight should shine brightest on those who elected this guy.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  3. bob searcy

    on a positive note he perpetuates the rapid demise of the gop in the eyes of americans and the global community.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  4. dave cooke

    im amazed that idiots like him ever get elected in the first place. And they want me to vote gop. What a moron.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  5. Gabey

    These Teapublicans make me ashamed of America.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  6. h

    Legitimate rape as opposed to illegimate rape. Your body shuts down so you cannot get pregnant. Does he know where babies come from? How can any one this stupid be running for office. My God,

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

    How can a Bible beating, Tea Party, conservative Congressman get an idea like this, well....... Laws of Rape in the Holy Bible (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT) "If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her." Let the woman who is raped be forced to marry her attacker. Of course in Exodus an attack that causes a miscarriage isn't treated as murder, unless the woman also dies. Yet elective abortion is to these fundamentalists. If these people get total control of our government heaven help us.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  8. Brenda

    As a Missourian, I want to apologize to the rest of the world for the existence of this man.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  9. Mibby

    what the _____ is legitimate rape?

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  10. Shannon

    What is wrong with "you people" on the right. How much further can you degrade and demean women. What woman on the planet would vote for anyone in this party. This is one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard. I fear for my daughter as you baggers get power, there is something wrong with you.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  11. Reason & Logic

    Let's see where this lunacy lies. A respectable, wage-earning single woman is raped and becomes pregnant by (choose one): a drug addict, a mentally insane individual, a career criminal, someone carrying AIDS, or an immediate family member and the GOP wants this woman to bear that child and what, raise that child as hers giving up her life as she once knew it? Why is that fair? If the GOP wants the innocent child not to suffer, then pay the rape victim 100% for her prenatal health care and delivery costs, reimburse her 100% for all out-of-pocket expenses in caring for the pregnancy, reimburse her for any lost wages up to and including the loss of her job and future earnings, and finally, find an adoptive family for the child from the GOP's own ranks. That would at least level the playing field for all the hypocritical rhetoric the GOP espouses. I'm sick and tried of the GOP and the right-to-lifers preaching their anti-abortion tune but caring not one iota for the woman or for the welfare of the baby once it is born.

    August 19, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  12. Shelley

    legitimate rape????? Seriously?????

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  13. justme

    I am generally pro life, but this guy does not belong in the House, and hopefully the voters in his home state will have the good sense to realize this in November.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  14. M. Romney

    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 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  15. Questions401

    Wow, just… Wow… A true Christian visionary to decide the future of the American people, one theocracy under god.

    Make no mistake, there is a Christian version of sharia law, and you're witnessing the first stages of it's implementation in our government.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  16. Chris

    Why is this GOP genius on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee??

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

    Wow. This guy said so many stupid things, I just don't know where to begin.

    I mean even calling rape "legitimate" was just really poorly thought out to begin with, not to mention the absurd fantasy that a woman's body would somehow magically reject the resulting fetus.

    If what he said wasn't so horrendous it might almost have been funny in how wrong it was.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  18. Rebecca

    Akin's comments show a lack of judgement, knowledge and empathy. He is not the type of person who should be representing Missouri, or this country. He is an embarrassment and a fool.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  19. Stop it!

    I am constantly dumbfounded by just how incredibly ignorant some of our lawmakers are. Good lord, didn't this guy even get "the talk" when he was a young man? How is it that some white, middle-aged inbred rube can suddenly become a medical expert? I am a white, middle-aged man, myself, but I actually have an education above the sixth grade. Sadly, there are people who will believe this guy. Next thing you'll hear guys like this spout is "Jesus decides if it's rape or not." Un believable. Sometimes I wish we'd let the south become their own country. Sadly, we'd be having to send them aid now, so they could continue to procreate dumb bunnies like this guy.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  20. rick

    Okay, so he said something really stupid, realized how stupid it was, and apologized for saying it. Maybe Biden could take a lesson from this guy and own up to the dumb things he sometimes says.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  21. Chris

    When I misspeak, it means I didn't mean what I said. When a politician misspeaks, it means they meant what they said, but it wasn't popular.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  22. The Realist

    Akin represents an area that is suburban, wealthy, and overwhelmingly White.

    It was only a matter of time before he put both feet in his mouth.

    Just watch, he's bound to make another terrible blunder.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  23. TryReading

    Most politicians minds, left and right, operate at this level.. Its a popularity contest, these people aren't voted into office based on their knowledge or intellect. the successful ones just know when not to speak.

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  24. Mike

    Is it just me or are American politicians getting dumber?

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  25. annie

    wow, another ignorant, and uneducated, male did they even get to this level, politically? And I would love to hear what his wife/daughters have to say................
    Really sad part is that some PR person is going to spin this and the US is stuck with another sociopathic politician

    August 19, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
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