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UPDATE: Obama calls Akin's 'legitimate rape' comment offensive

UPDATED: Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, a conservative Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, sparked a furor and earned a rebuke from Mitt Romney’s campaign after saying that women’s bodies can prevent pregnancies in “a legitimate rape” and that conception is rare in such cases.

President Barack Obama, in a press conference on Aug. 20, called Akin's comments offensive. The president said, "Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and doesn’t make sense to me. What I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn’t have a bunch of politicians – the majority of whom are men – making decisions about women’s health."

Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, was asked in an interview broadcast Sunday (Aug. 19) on St. Louis television station KTVI if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.

“It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin said of a rape victim’s chances of becoming pregnant.

Akin said in an emailed statement later that day that he “misspoke” during the interview, though the statement did not specify on which points or 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,” 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 Romney.

“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.

McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, in an emailed statement Sunday called the 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 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, 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.

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.

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