Women rarely get pregnant from a "legitimate rape," Missouri Republican Senate nominee Todd Akin said in an interview aired Sunday. In a message posted to his campaign website later that evening Akin, who currently represents Missouri's 2nd district in the U.S. House, said he misspoke and has "deep empathy" for rape victims.
Akin was asked about abortions in the case of rape victims in the KTVI-TV interview.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that whole thing didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child," Akin said.
Claire McCaskill, the Democratic incumbent senator who Akin is running against, had a swift response.
"As a woman & former prosecutor who handled [hundreds] of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this [morning]," McCaskill posted to her Twitter feed.
In a statement posted Sunday evening on his campaign website, Akin said, "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. 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."
He also reiterated his belief that a life produced from a rape has the same right to life as a life produced from consensual sex.
"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."
Akin won the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat in a surprising upset earlier this month. He ran against businessman John Brunner, who spent almost $7 million of his own money in the race, and Sarah Steelman, who was endorsed by Sarah Palin and backed by tea party groups.
Akin was endorsed by Missouri Right to Life, David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). His background is in engineering, but he also holds a M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary.