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. SuperDave

    What an idiot would be the understatement of the year. And someone like him actually gets to the point that he can actually win a seat in office? That is a scary proposition. Then again, after that statement, I doubt we need to worry about that.

    August 19, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  2. Tammy

    WOW IDIOT......Someone this ignorant and "out-of-touch" with the real world, should not be allowed to lead a pre-school song, let along be considered a leader among conservative politicians. Talk about someone showing their true colors! SMH Women have reproductive rights and will not tolerate the men who sit on Capital Hill to make reproductive decisions for them. This country hasn't seen Women band together and fight for a cause like they will see if OUR reproductive rights are seriously threatened.

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  3. Len Dobratz

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have heard there are people that stupid in power but WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now you know why there are idiot lights and warning labels on everything ....................... So the 99% can have their intelligence insulted for the Uber Wealthy 1% that are this mentally handicapped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish I could have worded this differently......... but how?

    From a "Very Happy" to be Canadian! .......... Canadian!

    P.S. Not that our powers to be...... have many more brain cells either.

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  4. Jules

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?????? Where does the GOP come up with all these idiots.

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  5. Rosieposey

    I can't even get angry as i am so stunned by his ignorant statement. Are we in a 1970s time warp when someone had to witness rape in order for the victim to prove it?

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  6. Anne

    Since when is ANY rape "legitimate?" Next, the body doesn't Intentionally pick and choose which pregnancies to "deal with." Where do these people come up with this stuff? If you're against abortion, that's your right. However, for the sake of your own dignity, you might want to think before making silly comments like this one.

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  7. Dianna A.

    ". . . the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down". If that were true, there'd be NO need for birth control pills or prophylactics, we women would merely be able to shut impending pregnancies down. Why didn't WE think of that before? *said facetiously of course*

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Hmm

    His statement really makes quite a bit of sense if u just don't think.

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. BD

    You guys have such intelligent gov't officials.

    August 19, 2012 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  10. tommy617

    There should be a minimum test of intelligence before someone is able to hold office, This might be one of the stupider thing I have ever heard. A new front in the Republican War on Women.

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  11. Texas

    I can't understand how this man got elected for public office. It doesn't make sense. Americans are smarter than this. We need to elect people who care about everyone, not just white, baby boomer men.

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  12. Michael Hoye

    I just can't believe that this man can get to power or congress!!!!

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  13. Yes or no

    Who keep putting these GOP fools in office? I know there are some with the sense somewhere.

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  14. phil

    ok, I think he's just plain stupid! (to put it mildly)

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  15. Duh

    First of all wow
    And who are the doctors advising him? They should be evaluated! Wow

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  16. SSampson

    I am dumbfounded – and THESE are the type of people that end up running our country – pro-life or pro-choice... you'd have to be a complete lunatic to believe that – it just doesn't make any sense

    This isn't a mistake of wording – no change or explanation could make this benign.... Someone his age should be in touch with reality – but unfortunately these days the fundamentalist ideologies are plaguing our society – while the message may differ, the method is the same –

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  17. Sean D

    As a lifetime "conservative," "pro-life," "republican," I have to say WOW!!!! Really??? I can't even begin to make up an excuse for how words that dumb can actually be spoken. And then to try and back it up with well I misspoke??? Ya think? ... Well what I meant to say was, that well, you know... I'm not sure how the body works in other parts of this great country, but here in the great state of Missurah, well that there stork bird won't even visit someone if it's a legitimate rape, only if it's a consensual rape. DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB...

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  18. John

    This guy is just too stupid to represent us in congress.
    But then aren't almost all of them!

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  19. Everett Wallace

    so how does a females body shut down from getting pregnant when raped? and who are you anyway and what are your views for the GROWTH for the GLOBAL economy.

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  20. verna heiberg

    There aren't enough adjectives to describe this ignorant being. Any Missourian who votes for him should have an IQ test.

    August 19, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  21. Matt

    I am sincerely at a loss for words. Amazing that this "train of thought" even exists.

    August 19, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  22. Shocked Beyond Belief

    GOP, you have outdone yourself with the utmost in stupidity!

    I simply cannot believe these comments from Todd Akin. They are unquestionably the most idiotic ever.

    August 19, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  23. Terry

    His comments were not bad enough, but the thought that this man sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and has this type of false information makes me shutter. What kind of politicians are we electing?

    August 19, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  24. deb

    Perhaps a biology course is in order.

    August 19, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  25. Pat

    So let me get this straight. If a women is raped and pregnancy does occur, does that mean she wasn't legitimately raped?

    August 19, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
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