Missouri Rep. Todd Akin defended his staunch anti-abortion platform on Sunday by questioning whether it's possible for a woman to become pregnant after a rape, reports CBS News.
Akin was asked to address his "no exceptions" policy on abortion, specifically why he opposes abortion even when the pregnancy is the result of rape.
Speaking in an interview to KTVI-TV that was posted to YouTube by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge, Akin said pregnancy from rape is "really rare", and implied that the female reproductive system is able to block conception from an unwanted pregnancy, reports the Washington Post.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said. "But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
The Los Angeles Times reports that a 1996 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimated that 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year. Five percent of victims age 12 to 45 will become pregnant.
Read more: The ugly truth about rape and pregnancy in the US.
Akin recently became the newly-minted GOP Senate nominee in Missouri, going up against incumbant Sen. Claire McCaskill. After hearing Akin's comments, McCaskill tweeted, "As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."
McCaskill emailed a further statement to the Los Angeles Times saying "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."
Akin also released a statement after his comments aired on YouTube trying to walk back his comments. “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,” he told the Washington Post.
More from GlobalPost: Scott Brown calls on Todd Akin to leave Missouri race
“I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue," he said. "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.”
The Washington Post reports that this is not an area that the Missouri GOP would want Akin to bring into focus. A debate about "legitimate rape" and the female reproductive system would likely take the focus off of McCaskill and President Obama.
This is not Akin's first wander into controversial territory about rape. Talking Points Memo reports that Akin once voted for a voted for an anti-marital-rape law, but only after questioning whether it would allow women to use accusations of rape as a "tool and a legal weapon to beat up on the husband.”