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. nowayjose323

    Republicans, the party of "legitimate rape." Typical right-wingers.

    August 19, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  2. Kathie

    I cannot believe the ignorance of this man. The GOP is determined to take away all women's rights.

    August 19, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  3. Jerry

    Once again the media makes a mountain out of a mole hill. Everyone makes mistakes or has some wrong information. We need to give each other some slack.

    August 19, 2012 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  4. Common sense grandma

    "the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down" and "legitimate rape"? An oxymoron (enlarge on moron) and a total lack of understanding human biology. And yet this man has a chance to legislate things that affect all women, not just the women in his home state. God help us all–and I mean that literally.

    August 19, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  5. cali girl

    Spoken like a true GOP old white man. Only one of them would say something stupid like that.

    August 19, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  6. longtooth

    What this buffoon is saying is, if the girl didn't legitimately enjoy it, she wouldn't get pregnant. So, if she's pregnant, she's lying about being raped. And people vote for this baboon in a suit and tie.

    August 19, 2012 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  7. MTATL67

    I can not believe what I just read ignorant, stupid doesn't begin to cover it.

    August 19, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  8. blue

    Another shining example of the Gop version of Sharia law whereby their religious beliefs are to be the law of the land. I'm not sure what's scarier: the ultraconservatives or how stupid some of them truly are.

    August 19, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. draeamom

    Yet another of the best and brightest of the republicans.

    August 19, 2012 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  10. Bart

    "We going to put you in baby chains!"

    August 19, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  11. Richard T.

    So does this mean that he believe that a woman's reproductive system is at fault for the pregnacy.

    This Tea Bagger not only sucks he also lives in a vacuumn.

    August 19, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  12. jespo

    This fool's information must be coming from the study he had done on himself when he invited NAMBLA to ra-pe him over and over again to see if he got pregnant in the name of scientific research. Now THAT sounds like Republican science at work. When is America going to wake up out of the stone age nightmare it created for itself by allowing religiosity to infest politics? Mo-rons like this are simply proof that a larger group of mo-rons is alive and of voting age, they are the real problem.

    August 19, 2012 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  13. will never vote Republician again

    Wow! Wake up America! The tea party wants to take away all democracy. They are simply Fascist!
    When Fascism comes to America it will be caring a cross and be wrapped in the flag!
    Sinclair Lewis

    August 19, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  14. deb

    Who cares if it is rare or not? The point is that it does happen, and a woman should have control over her body. Akins should NOT have control over another person's body.

    August 19, 2012 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  15. Common sense grandma

    To paraphrase Mark Twain (see previous article): "Suppose there was an idiot and suppose he was a senator, but I repeat myself."

    August 19, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  16. txissohot

    This is the typical mindset of the new GOP. As a woman and a medical student, I am terrified for the females of this country. How in the world did we come to such a low place as this? This is what happens when the likes of Rush Limbaugh, the Koch Brothers and Rubert Murdock are setting the party platform for these wackos.

    August 19, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  17. Drew

    Wow!! How stupid is this guy?

    August 19, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  18. artraveler

    Another example of the scientific illiteracy of the current group of GOTP members. Did they all go to some Christian academy that teaches this tripe? What other lies was he taught? He doesn't deserve to be elected dog catcher. We had a House member here in Arkansas in our 3rd District that said that a women who was raped couldn't get pregnant. I guess we are surrounded by this GOTP stupidity.

    August 19, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  19. Country Concerned

    Depends on the context of the words and how people twist them, especially the media. A legitimate act means it actually occured. A legitimate rape means the rape occured. most who commented must been educated in our worthless public school system. McCaskill apparently received our typical low quality, union controlled public education. As a side note, I do not know Akin.

    August 19, 2012 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  20. Sherri

    Well, first off, since he is a man, he has no right to comment on rape. Period. He has never been raped and does not have to worry about being raped OR getting pregnant during a rape. I do not think any man has any right to comment or make policy on this issue or any issue that concerns women. Keep YOUR laws off MY body as they say. Now as for the body shutting that down, during a rape, what in heaven's name is he talking about? Is this man insane or something? I hope his state voters have too much sense to elect this man for anything, even dog catcher. He's not right in the head.

    August 19, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. Stephen Daugherty

    Thank you for electing Claire McCaskill, but go screw yourself for saying one of the most ignorant, appalling things I've heard a human being say all month.

    August 19, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  22. tee1227

    I will bet the house this will be one of the topics at the RNC convention they have no plan for this country. Like mitch mcconnell said there number 1 gold is to make Obama a one term at any cost.

    August 19, 2012 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  23. ma

    Claire McCaskill does not support abortion. She supports a women's right to make life altering, personal decisions for themselves. She supports choice. Stop calling it pro-abortion!

    August 19, 2012 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  24. What!! What!!! What!!!!

    Wow. It's this type of thinking that caused me to leave Missouri or Misery. And this type of person wants to be able to have a hand in health care in America! Next, he will be demanding the use of leaches and chloroform in surgeries. Maybe this "unnamed medical mechanisms he said prevented pregnancy".is something the anti-abortion people might want to look into. (Serious sarcasm).

    August 19, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  25. Don in Albuquerque

    Of course he ment what he said, and that is why he deserves to be thrown out of office. After listening to these and other GOP talking points. Is it any wonder that most other counteries see us as uncivilized.

    August 19, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
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