August 20, 2012 — Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a six-term member of Congress and a Republican nominee for the Senate, drew fire on Sunday by stating that conception in cases of "legitimate rape" is rare, the New York Times reports.
During an interview on the St. Louis television station KTVI, Akin was asked whether he supports abortion in cases of rape. "It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said about pregnancies resulting from rape. He added, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of trying to shut that whole thing down" (Eligon/Schwirtz, New York Times, 8/19).
Akin added that he opposes abortion in cases of rape. "[T]he punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child," he said (Cohen, Politico, 8/19).
Abortion has been a key issue for Akin in the past. In 2011, he supported a bill that would have allowed federal health coverage for abortion solely in cases of "forcible rape," which critics argued would have prevented funding in certain cases, including statutory rape (Gorman, Wall Street Journal, 8/19).
Akin Issues Apology
Later on Sunday, Akin released a statement saying that he "misspoke" during the interview. He said his "off-the-cuff" remarks do "not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year." However, he added, "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" (New York Times, 8/19).
Akin's comments were immediately condemned by Democrats and women's rights advocates. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Akin's opponent in the Senate race, wrote in an emailed statement, "It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so 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" (Abcarian, Los Angeles Times, 8/19).
Terry O'Neil, president of the National Organization for Women, called Akin's remarks "flat-out-astonishing." She said, "This kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. ... This kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women."
The campaign for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also issued a statement condemning the remarks, saying that Romney and his running mate -- House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) -- "would not oppose abortion in instances of rape" (AP/Washington Post, 8/20).
According to the New York Times' "The Caucus," the statement is in line with Romney's previous positions on abortion. However, Ryan has stated that he opposes abortion in all cases except to save the life of the woman (Gabriel/Shear, "The Caucus," New York Times, 8/20).