Republican US congressman Todd Akin, under fire for controversial remarks on abortion and rape, said on Tuesday that he was not dropping out of the Senate race in the US state of Missouri.
Despite calls from throughout the Republican party for him to step out of his race against Democratic senator Claire McCaskill, Akin vowed to stay in the race, indicating he represents a conservative movement that must be heard.
“We are going to continue in this race for US Senate,” he told the Mike Huckabee Show, a radio programme hosted by the former Arkansas governor, an Akin supporter and a favourite of religious conservatives.
Akin has been under fire for his televised comments that women’s bodies are able to prevent pregnancies if they are victims of “a legitimate rape.”
Asked in an interview Sunday on a local television station, KTVI, if he would support 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. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
‘It’s clear that I misspoke’
He has since backtracked, a bit, from his comments, saying in a statement on Sunday that he “misspoke” during the interview, though he did not say specifically which points were in error.
“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 he believes “deeply in the protection of all life” and does “not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action”.
In another appearance on Huckabee’s show on Monday, Akin said rape is “never legitimate”.
“It’s an evil act. It’s committed by violent predators,” Akin said. “I used the wrong words the wrong way.”
During the primary campaign, Akin ran TV ads in which Huckabee praised him as “a courageous conservative” and “a Bible-based Christian” who “supports traditional marriage” and “defends the unborn”.
His race against McCaskill is one of this year’s most closely watched races as it represents one of the Republicans’ best chances of defeating a Democratic incumbent as they try to gain control of the Senate. McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, is considered vulnerable because of her strong ties to President Barack Obama, and the fact that Missouri is considered an increasingly conservative state.
But calls for Akin’s exit from the race continued to grow on Monday, with at least two Republican senators – Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin – saying he should resign the party’s nomination.
Democrats quickly sought to capitalise on Akin’s comments. US president Barack Obama said the remarks underscore why politicians – most of whom are men – should not make health decisions on behalf of women.
“Rape is rape,” Obama said. He said the idea of distinguishing among types of rape “doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me”.
Akin’s comments also brought a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Romney and Ryan “disagree with Mr Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Amanda Henneberg, a spokesperson for the Romney campaign, said.
Romney went further in an interview with National Review Online, calling Akin’s comments “insulting, inexcusable and frankly wrong”.
“Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive,” Romney said.