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Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, the Republican who's challenging Democrat Claire McCaskill for the U.S. Senate seat, said in a television interview Sunday that it's "rare" for women to become pregnant when they are raped.
"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," he said in an interview with KTVI, a St. Louis television station.
Akin was being interviewed on KTVI's The Jaco Report on a wide variety of issues. His comments on rape came when he was asked whether there were any circumstances under which he'd support a woman's right to an abortion.
Here's more from The Associated Press:
"Akin, who has said he's Missouri's most conservative congressman, indicated there may be an exception to his stance against abortion. But, when asked if he supported 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.'
He also said he would prefer that punishment for rape be focused on the rapist and not 'attacking the child.'"
On Twitter, McCaskill said she was "stunned" by Akin's comments.
"As a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases,I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM."
Later Sunday, Akin walked back from his comments, calling them "off-the-cuff."
"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 said. "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."
As NPR's Ari Shapiro is reporting for our Newscast Unit, the Romney campaign is distancing itself from Akin's original remarks.
Here's more from Ari's report:
"Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan disagree with Akins's statement. Saul told NPR, 'A Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.'"
Akin, a six-term congressman, comfortably won the Republican Senate primary earlier this month. Poll show him leading McCaskill in the run-up the November election.