Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET
(CBS/ AP) Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, a conservative Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, sparked a furor and earned a rebuke from Mitt Romney's campaign after saying that women's bodies can prevent pregnancies in "a legitimate rape" and that conception is rare in such cases.
Akin, a six-term congressman running against incumbent Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill, was asked in an interview broadcast Sunday on St. Louis television station KTVI if he would support abortions for women who have been raped.
"It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," Akin said. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Akin said of a rape victim's chances of becoming pregnant.
Akin said in an emailed statement later Sunday that he "misspoke" during the interview, though the statement did not specify on 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," Akin's statement said.
Akin also said in the statement he believes "deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action."
Akin's comments brought a swift rebuke from the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Romney.
"Gov. 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.
In a phone interview Monday morning, Mitt Romney told the conservative magazine the National Review Online that Akin's comment was "inexcusable."
"Congressman's Akin comments on rape are insulting, inexcusable, and, frankly, wrong," Romney said. "Like millions of other Americans, we found them to be offensive."
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, a Republican in his own tough race for re-election, released a statement Monday calling on Akin to resign his Senate nomination.
"As a husband and father of two young women, I found Todd Akin's comments about women and rape outrageous, inappropriate and wrong," Brown said. "There is no place in our public discourse for this type of offensive thinking. Not only should he apologize, but I believe Rep. Akin's statement was so far out of bounds that he should resign the nomination for US Senate in Missouri."
McCaskill, who is seeking a second term, in an emailed statement Sunday called the comments "offensive."
"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," McCaskill said. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
McCaskill said on MSNBC Monday morning that the comments offered "kind of a window into Todd Akin's mind." However, she said it would be unwise for the Republican party to replace Akin in the race against her.
"I really think that for the national party to try to come in here and dictate to the Republican primary voters that they're going to invalidate their decision, that would be pretty radical," she said. "I think there could be a backlash for the Republicans if they did that."
As the Washington Post notes, the GOP can't force Akin to drop out, but he could voluntarily resign by 5 p.m. Tuesday, or he could withdraw from the race by court order by Sept. 25.
As for the scientific basis of Akin's comments, Dr. Isabel Blumberg, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said to CBS Radio News, "There's absolutely no biological mechanism by which the female body prevents conception if she is raped during the time of ovulation."
This month, Akin won the state's Republican U.S. Senate primary by a comfortable margin. During the primary, Akin enhanced his standing with TV ads in which former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee praised him as "a courageous conservative" and "a Bible-based Christian" who "supports traditional marriage" and "defends the unborn."
Akin, a former state lawmaker who first won election to the U.S. House in 2000, also has a long-established base among evangelical Christians and was endorsed in the primary by more than 100 pastors.
Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, on Sunday called Akin's remarks "flat-out astonishing."
"That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims. ... That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women," she told AP Radio. The left-leaning organization supports abortion rights and already opposed Akin's candidacy before his comments Sunday.
Akin was interviewed on KTVI's "The Jaco Report," and also talked about numerous campaign issues, such as voter ID laws, the economy and Medicare. KTVI said the interview was conducted earlier in the week.