ST. LOUIS, MO (RNN) – Rep. Todd Akin, a leading candidate for the U.S. Senate, said "legitimate rape" victims seldom get pregnant.
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said. "If it is a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The Republican lawmaker made the statement Sunday on KTVI's The Jaco Report, when asked if there could be exceptions where he would consider abortion OK.
"But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something," he continued. "You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
His assertion is not true, according to a study by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
"Rape-related pregnancy occurs with significant frequency," the study concluded. "It is a cause of many unwanted pregnancies and is closely linked with family and domestic violence.
"As we address the epidemic of unintended pregnancies in the United States, greater attention and effort should be aimed at preventing and identifying unwanted pregnancies that result from sexual victimization."
The interviewer followed the congressman's statement by moving the topic to the economy. A longer clip of the interview also has been posted on YouTube.
According to polls, Akin is leading in the Senate race against incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill.
During his time in the U.S. House, Akin has been a staunch advocate for pro-life legislation, and his campaign is backed by the tea party. According to his website, he co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act in 2011.
The bill would have changed an amendment that prevents federally funded health care programs from covering abortions, but offers an exemption in cases of rape. Under the new law, the exemption would have been reworded to "forcible rape," which critics argued could distinguish it from statutory rape or sexual assaults involving drugs.
McCaskill became the first woman elected to the Senate from Missouri in 2006. The race has been dubbed "one of the most closely watched" in 2012 by USA Today.
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.