INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indiana congressmen who backed legislation that would have denied abortion funding for victims of statutory rape and incest criticized a Missouri Senate candidate Monday over his comments suggesting women can avoid getting pregnant from "a legitimate rape."
Republican Mike Pence, who is running for governor, and Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is seeking the Senate, said they disagreed with Todd Akin's remarks, but both stopped short of saying he should quit the race.
Donnelly, Pence and Akin joined 224 other House lawmakers, most of them Republicans, on a bill last year that would have cut off federal aid for abortion-related services for statutory rape and incest.
The bill established a separate category for "forcible rape" and allowed the services to continue for those. Following a massive outcry, lawmakers backtracked and restored the original language that did not differentiate among the types of rape.
Critics of Akin's comments — including numerous Republicans — said the remarks were offensive in part because of his use of the term "legitimate rape".
The campaigns for both Pence and Donnelly said the men did not know the "forcible rape" language was in the bill when it was first introduced and opposed the measure until it was removed. Democrats Andre Carson and Pete Visclosky were the only members of the Indiana delegation to oppose the bill in its initial form.
"Joe is pro-life and supports legislation to ensure that no federal dollars go toward funding abortion-related services. That was the original intention of the bill, not to redefine rape," said Donnelly spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell.
Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said Pence "strongly disagrees" with Akin's remarks, but she declined further comment.
Later Monday, in an interview with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Akin said he did not mean to say "legitimate rape," but instead meant "forcible rape." That walk back spurred Planned Parenthood of Indiana President Betty Cockrum to knock Pence for supporting the anti-abortion bill with Akin.
Pence has pushed unsuccessfully to cut off all federal funding for the group.