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. FactChecker

    Is he really that stupid? Or is he a maniacal geeeennnnniiiiooooouuuuusssss!!!! The election results will tell.

    August 19, 2012 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  2. reldra

    Is this from The Onion news???? Come on, a real person actually said this?

    August 19, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  3. ticktockman0

    Go Missouri, elect this clown and make us all proud!

    August 19, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  4. ValarMorghulis

    So who is Akin to tell a woman impregnated by a racist that she must carry the child to term? Isn't it enough that the woman was raped without having to bear the additional emotional and physical burden of being reminded of it day after day?

    No doubt the McCaskill campaign is thrilled when their opponent makes such offensive statements. If women or for that matter vote for Akin they will get what they deserve.

    August 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  5. yardlady

    Hey you with the combover–how do you legimitize rape? Would you want a daughter or granddaughter legimately raped?

    August 19, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  6. Bill Cameron

    Tell that to the women of Berlin, 1944. Or Bosnia, more recently. Let the Republican candidate tell us the facts of life about 'legitimate rape'. Is that a legal term?

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  7. cameron

    Did you sophmoric people read his comment. He is pro life and says based on coversations with dr's (experts ) he doesnt belive its common. Abortion is LAW. You can still kill your children before you see them. No senator can do much to change it. So dont worry about his comments or beliefs. Worry about he million of women who cant find work today because of the failure of our POTUS. Obama

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  8. doug

    This would be laughable if it were not for the fact that this loony tunes idiot could actually be elected to the US Senate from Missouri!!!!

    Legitimate rape – how can ANYONE even begin to defend this – but of course – the tea party whackos also cheered in Florida during the Repub debate here about letting the uninsured die in an emergency room rather than treat them...........sad.......

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. MadBeagle01

    Perhaps like Republican Jon Kyle, Rep. Todd Akin did not intend for anything he said to taken as a factual statement.

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  10. Danny

    It's so reassuring to know these are the people running the show.

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  11. lgny

    "Tea party" is an apt name. These politicians want to take us back to the late 1700's!

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  12. phylee

    I just contributed to Claire McCaskill's campaign. Please, we women need to stop this man and those like him. I know the little money I can contribute will make little difference when put up against the Koch brothers. They bank-rolled this tea-party, which will be the downfall of our great country. They are behind the divisiveness that republicans blame on The President. Their slimy, sneaky hands are pushing money in all directions to divide and conquer us. The sad thing is if you ask a tea party member "who are the Koch brothers?", they don't even know. They are too busy buying the propaganda being spewed by Fox News.

    August 19, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  13. sarah

    The reason why it rarely results in pregnancy in the US is the use of the morning after pill and regular birth control. It is harder to get someone pregnant in a one time rape because women are not fertile every day of the month but that doesn't mean that it's impossible. This guy needs to do serious research before he sets policy. What is wrong with people?

    August 19, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  14. Craig

    The man is a 'legitimate' idiot and anyone who votes for him is in the same category.

    August 19, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  15. Benjamin

    There is no such thing as "legitimate rape". This conservative Republican is out of his mind. A rape is a rape and if the rapist happens to be a criminal or a terrorist, the more abortion should be given. What kind of reasoning does this dude has?

    August 19, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. zooni

    How does a country thrive when it has leaders like this. It doesn't.

    August 19, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  17. dallas.alphonso

    That's simply insane. The people of Missouri they can choose to elect this person or not. If they do it will say a lot about the mind set of Missourians. People can be conservative, that's not the issue here, the issue is intelligence, no intelligent person utter such a statement whether they are pro life or not, I believe

    August 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  18. Nicole

    Um.... Wow.... This is so offensive in almost every way possible.

    August 19, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. Jake

    American conservatives, everybody! Let's hear it for 'em!

    August 19, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. alex

    The face matches the rhetoric

    August 19, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  21. connieb

    "talk about a poor choice of words"

    What would have been a better choice of words? It is more a poor choice of beliefs–a poor choice of values–a poor choice of what is right and just in the treatment of women–a poor choice of ideals. He is just a poor choice of a human being. Of course Daniel will probably never see this because everything I put here is always "awaiting moderation", which I don't understand after reading some of the horrendous things that are posted here. I just wanted to vent, I guess.

    August 19, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  22. MagicPanties

    Yes, this is the new GOP, no abortion even if rape or incest.
    How has this nation regressed so badly? Oh yeah, religion.

    August 19, 2012 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  23. Gordyb

    Another old white man spewing stupid about women's reproductive systems. Where does the GOP find these looneys?

    August 19, 2012 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  24. ccw

    As a victim of rape, believe me there is no such thing "legitimate rape". I can't tell you how this infuriates me...This man should not have a job around women let alone be an elected official.

    August 19, 2012 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. amlcpamaine

    This isn't stupidity - it's outright callousness toward others. The problem with the GOP is that, for almost 20 years now, they've been a party of power-brokers focused only on 1) money and 2) ideology THEIR way. They've lost all touch with the American way of life, with the social contract of shared responsibility, and the desire to have everybody succeed because then our overall country succeeds. Instead, it's "me me me" and "do what I say" to the point of having NO common sense. This man is even more dangerous than earlier reported during the primaries, with his attack on compromise and his hatred for anyone who doesn't agree with him. In some other societies he would be in jail!

    August 19, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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