ST. LOUIS — Missouri Congressman Todd Akin was keeping a low profile Monday, a day after he said women’s bodies are able to prevent pregnancies in “a legitimate rape” situation and that conception is rare in such cases.
Campaign spokesman Ryan Hite said the congressman was making no public appearances Monday, and did not plan any further comments on the issue. He canceled a scheduled Monday morning interview with talk show host Charlie Brennan on KMOX Radio.
The six-term congressman is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, opposing Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill in the November election.
Asked in an interview Sunday on KTVI-TV if he would support abortions for women who have been raped, Akin said: “It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Later Sunday, Akin released a statement saying 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,” Akin’s statement said.
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.”
Akin’s comments brought a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his choice for vice president, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
“Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
Romney went further in an interview with National Review Online, calling Akin’s comment “inexcusable.”
“Congressman’s Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong,” Romney said. “Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive.”
The Missouri Senate race is one of the more hotly contested, with control of the Senate up for grabs. McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, is considered vulnerable because of her strong ties to President Obama — she was an early supporter in 2008 — and the fact that Missouri is considered an increasingly conservative state.
In an emailed statement Sunday, McCaskill called Akin’s comments “offensive.”
“It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape,” McCaskill said. “The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive.”
This month, Akin, 65, won the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary by a comfortable margin. During the primary, Akin enhanced his standing with TV ads in which former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee praised him as “a courageous conservative” and “a Bible-based Christian” who “supports traditional marriage” and “defends the unborn.”
Akin, a former state lawmaker who first won election to the U.S. House in 2000, also has a long-established base among evangelical Christians and was endorsed in the primary by more than 100 pastors.
Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, on Sunday called Akin’s remarks “flat-out astonishing.”
“That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. … That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women,” she told AP Radio. The left-leaning organization supports abortion rights and already opposed Akin’s candidacy before his comments Sunday.
Akin was interviewed on KTVI’s “The Jaco Report,” and also talked about numerous campaign issues, such as voter ID laws, the economy and Medicare. KTVI said the interview was conducted earlier in the week.