A conservative US Senate candidate sparked anger after telling TV viewers that it was "really rare" for women to become pregnant when they were raped.
Missouri Republican Todd Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill, was asked in an interview shown on St Louis television station KTVI if there were any circumstances in which he would support a woman's decision to have an abortion.
Mr Akin, who has said he is 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, he 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," he said of a rape victim's chances of becoming pregnant.
He also said he would prefer that punishment for rape be focused on the rapist and not "attacking the child".
Mr Akin said in an emailed statement today that he "misspoke" during the interview, though the statement did not specify which points or comments. "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.
Mr Akin said he believed "deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action".
His comments also brought a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney. "Governor Romney and Congressman (Paul) 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.
Ms McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, said she found the TV comments "offensive". "It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," she said. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
Ms McCaskill also took to Twitter to condemn Mr Akin, saying that "as a woman & former prosecutor who handled 100s of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep Akin's comments about victims this AM".