ST. LOUIS — Representative Todd Akin apologized Monday for televised comments in which he said that women’s bodies are able to prevent pregnancies if they are victims of ‘‘a legitimate rape,’’ but he refused to heed calls to abandon his bid for the Senate.
Appearing on Mike Huckabee’s radio show, Akin, a Missouri Republican, said rape is ‘‘never legitimate.’’
‘‘It’s an evil act. It’s committed by violent predators,’’ Akin told the 2008 presidentital candidate. ‘‘I used the wrong words the wrong way.’’
Calls for Akin’s exit from the race intensified.
The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, John Cornyn of Texas, informed Akin that the national GOP would not spend money to help elect him, according to a committee aide who spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversation was private.
Cornyn also told Akin that, by staying in the race, he is endangering Republicans’ hopes of retaking the majority in the Senate, the aide said.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Akin’s comments were ‘‘totally inexcusable’’ and advised him to reconsider his candidacy. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Akin should quit the Senate race now.
Senator Scott Brown, who is running for reelection in Massachusetts, also called on Akin to quit the race.
But Akin pledged to continue the contest against the Democratic incumbent, Senator Claire McCaskill. ‘‘The good people of Missouri nominated me, and I’m not a quitter,’’ he said.
The problem started in an interview Sunday when Akin was asked whether he would support abortions in cases of rape.
He responded: ‘‘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.’’
Later Sunday, Akin released a statement stepping back from the quote: ‘‘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 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.’’
Moments after Akin’s apology, President Obama said Akin’s remarks underscore why politicians — most of whom are men— should not make health decisions on behalf of women.
‘‘Rape is rape,’’ Obama said. The president 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 also drew a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Representative 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,’’ Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.
Romney went further in an interview with National Review Online, calling Akin’s comments ‘‘insulting, inexcusable, and frankly wrong.’’
Yet, Akin’s reference to “legitimate rape” echoed the “forcible rape” language contained in a bill Ryan and Akin co-sponsored last year.
That bill narrowed an exemption to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions.
The amendment allows federal dollars to be used for abortions in cases of rape and incest, but the proposed bill would have covered only victims of “forcible rape.”
House Republicans never defined what constituted “forcible rape,” but critics of the bill suggested that the term could exclude women who are drugged and raped, mentally handicapped women who are coerced, and young women who are victims of statutory rape.