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. Christina

    What an idiot!!! His opponent will (rightfully so) crucify him for this.

    August 19, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    What an idiot

    August 19, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  3. Bob

    It's so cute when the GOP tries to use science. Considering the war against science they wage, when they do try to site scientific studies, it's like watching a cat try to figure out where the race cars went when they zoom out of frame on television. Remember when GOP Congressman tried to say "from my understanding Terry Schiavo shows brain activity" in a sick, perverted effort to keep her artificially kept alive? You see that's the problem. They DON'T understand. They're not doctors (or they are doctors in name only because they're optometrists or have a degree from some fake religious university) so when they try to speak as if they know what the heck they are talking about, they are just making themselves look like idiots to those of us with real degrees.

    August 19, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  4. Alan Dean Foster

    Probably doesn't believe in evolution. Wonder if he believes in devolution.

    August 19, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  5. nolimits3333

    If there were a way for a woman to register her uterus as a corporation, the Republicans would not have the slighest interest in regulating it.

    August 19, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. Jim

    Cant wait to hear from the conservatives on this one! Release the trolls!

    August 19, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  7. Smarterest Human

    What a dummy. I could go on and on, but that really sums it up succinctly.

    August 19, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  8. Bob

    I have some distant relatives from Missouri (or Misery as I like to call it). They will cheerfully tell you "we were the only slave state north of the Mason Dixon line". Guys, that's not something to be proud of.

    August 19, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  9. MP in VA

    Scary. Just plain scary.

    August 19, 2012 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  10. 66Biker

    CanadaONE wrote: "WOW this makes the USA look real stupid – did he really say this??

    GOP home of STUPID people"

    Akin's comments certainly make HIM look stupid, but that doesn't make the USA look stupid at all. Not all Americans are stupid. Just the ones who voted him into office six times. They should wake up and get with the program.

    August 19, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. Whizerd67

    Now that I have stopped laughing at the fact that this awhole is what a 'posterboy FOR abortion' should be! And even he doesn't know it!!!
    I can say unequivocally that this 'person' is neither republican, or human.

    ~Blessed Be to all~

    August 19, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. sbp

    I know there are a lot of Fox News refugees on CNN boards lately, but do you think ANYONE is going to come on here and defend this guy? Whether or not you are anti-abortion, you'd be crazy to align yourself with comments this stupid.

    August 19, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  13. Incredulous

    This one can go into the list of "Great Lies" right next to "You can't get pregnant the first time."

    August 19, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  14. Blue

    What in the hell does he mean? I have never heard of such crap. Do you think the people of Missouri would vote for this man? Missouri is sounding more like Tennesee everyday.

    August 19, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  15. cleareye1

    Would Missouri actually elect a reptile as a Senator? Maybe so. This thinks like a prehistoric creature of some kind.

    August 19, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  16. DanW

    This guy would be hilarious if he wasn't a LAWmaker. What a poster boy for conservatism.

    August 19, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  17. pat o'brien

    No Phylee, you are not the only one. There are thousands of us and we must never let ignorant religious zealots like this man make decisions for us.

    August 19, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  18. Linda

    Talk from another GOP white man.....what is this war on women? Total disrespect and insensivitivity towards women. They want to defund health care for women and take away their legal right to abortion. Why aren't American women fighting back? Sounds like the GOPs want American women to return to the days when women were not socially accepted into colleges, could not get good paying jobs and forced to stay home with 10 straving children? Let's treat American women like they do in the 3rd world.

    August 19, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  19. cleareye1

    Is it Missouri's intention to electa reptile as senator? This guy thinks like a prehistoric creature of some sort. Maybe they will?

    August 19, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  20. MIke

    Rep Akin is ... wait for it ... an esteemed member of the House's Science, Space and Technology committee. You can't make this stuff up ....

    August 19, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  21. Lar 5

    What a complete imbecile. This is a look into he future if Romney and the zealot Ryan win. Women, please do not vote for the GOP.

    August 19, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  22. Lizzy10


    August 19, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  23. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    I guess all those rape victims who got pregnant must have been illigitimately raped instead of legitimately raped. Glad the Republicans could clear up that little bit of confuaion.
    That was like the pol years ago who suggested when being raped, women should just lie back and enjoy it.

    August 19, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Apparently he doesn't understand how babies are made...

    August 19, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  25. MashaSobaka

    Judging by the national dialogue on abortion rights, there are millions of Americans who agree with this guy. There are a lot of things that I'd like to say about those people...but CNN would never post my comment if I did. So y'all can just use your imaginations.

    August 19, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
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