Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) justified his extreme opposition to abortion by claiming that victims of "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.
In an interview with KTVI-TV on Sunday, the GOP Senate nominee was asked if he supported abortion in the case of rape.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."
Akin won a three-way primary on Aug. 7 for the rights to a November battle against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). McCaskill was "stunned" by Akin's Sunday comments.
"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," McCaskill added in a statement. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
After Akin's primary win, McCaskill wasted little time in pouncing on his conservative record, calling the congressman "out of touch."
"We're going to prove to Missourians that Todd Akin is out of touch with their problems, out of touch with the pain that they feel, and out of touch with the views that they hold dear," she said back on Aug. 8.
Akin's comments on abortion and rape come less than two weeks after he suggested banning the morning-after pill.
“As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion, and I think we just shouldn’t have abortion in this country,” he said in an Aug.8 interview with KCMO radio.
UPDATE (5:25 p.m. ET): Akin's campaign released a statement Sunday on the issue, where the congressman admitted that he "misspoke" in the KTVI interview.
"As a member of Congress, I believe that working to protect the most vulnerable in our society is one of my most important responsibilities, and that includes protecting both the unborn and victims of sexual assault. 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.
"I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. 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.
"But I also believe that this election is about a wide range of very important issues, starting with the economy and the type of country we will be leaving our children and grandchildren. We've had 42 straight months of unacceptably high unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, and Democratic leaders in Washington who are focused on growing government, instead of jobs. That is my primary focus in this campaign and while there are those who want to distract from that, knowing they cannot defend the Democrats' failed economic record of the last four years, that will continue to be my focus in the months ahead."