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Rep. Todd Akin: Women's Bodies Prevent Pregnancy If It's 'Legitimate Rape'

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Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, said during an interview broadcast Sunday on St. Louis television station KTVI that women do not get pregnant from "legitimate rape."

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare," Akin told KTVI-TV. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Akin continued, explaining that when those natural defenses fail, abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim: "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment. But the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."

Contrary to Akin's opinion, a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found “rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency” and is “a cause of many unwanted pregnancies.”

Mitt Romney's campaign quickly rebuked the candidate's remarks. "Gov. Romney and Congressman (Paul) 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.

Incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill immediately tweeted she was "stunned" by the comments. She released a statement later Sunday stating, "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."

Following the admonishment, Akin clarified in an emailed statement Sunday that he "misspoke" during the interview without specifying on 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, reported TPMLiveWire.

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Akin added that 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."

This isn't the first time Akin's views of rape have garnered him criticism. Last year, he co-sponsored a bill that sought to alter the language of a bill banning taxpayer subsidies for abortion by adding the modifier "forcible," causing an uproar among women's rights groups.

"The phrase forcible rape was abandoned some time ago, and there is some indication that what they would be trying to do is make women jump over an additional hurdle if they want to get an abortion," Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colorado) told POLITICO.

And back in 1991, as a state legislator, Akin questioning whether criminalizing marital rape provides women “a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.”

Akin is also a supporter of banning Plan B contraception. “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," Akin said August 8, the day following his win in the Republic primary, in an interview with Kansas City radio host Greg Knapp.

(According to the National Institutes of Health, Plan B is not an abortion pill and will not terminate existing pregnancies. It does act as a contraceptive and prevents conception from taking place after sexual contact has occurred.)

As of August 12, TPM's Poll Tracker Average calculated Akin at a comfortable 49.7 percent margin to McCaskill's 41.3 percent. But now talks are surfacing about members of the Republican party asking Akin to withdraw from the race—among them, Sen. Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts).

“As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin’s comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong,” Brown said in a statement, reported “There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin’s statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for US Senate in Missouri.”