ST. LOUIS — Rep. W. Todd Akin of Missouri, a conservative Republican U.S. Senate candidate, quickly backed off comments that aired earlier Sunday, in which he told an interviewer that a woman's body "has ways" to prevent pregnancy during rape and that such pregnancies are "really rare."
Mr. Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was asked in an interview that aired Sunday on St. Louis television station KTVI whether he would support abortions for women who have been raped.
"It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Mr. Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said of a rape victim's chances of becoming pregnant.
He also said he would prefer that punishment for rape be focused on the rapist and not "attacking the child."
Mr. Akin said in an emailed statement later Sunday that he "misspoke" during the interview, though the statement did not say specifically which points.
"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," the statement said. "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."
Mr. Akin also said in the statement he believes "deeply in the protection of all life, and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action."
Mrs. McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, said in an emailed statement Sunday that she found the comments "offensive."
"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," Mrs. McCaskill said. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
Mrs. McCaskill also quickly took to Twitter to decry Mr. Akin's comments, saying, "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep. Akin's comments about victims this AM."