WASHINGTON - Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, an obstetrician-gynecolgist since 1975, said former Rep. Todd Akin was "partly right" when he said women's bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."
However, the six-term Georgia lawmaker issued a statement Friday, the day after his comments, saying his position was misconstrued and that he neither defends nor stands by Akin's remark.
Gingrey spoke to constituents at a Thursday breakfast meeting and commented on both Akin and Richard Mourdock, two Republican Senate candidates tripped up by their clumsy comments last year about rape and abortion, according to the Marietta Daily Journal in Georgia. Republicans disavowed Akin after his statement, and Mourdock was criticized widely when he said pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended."
"Part of the reason the Dems still control the Senate is because of comments made in Missouri by Todd Akin and Indiana by Mourdock were considered a little bit over the top," Gingrey said, according to the newspaper. "Mourdock basically said 'Look, if there is conception in the aftermath of a rape, that's still a child, and it's a child of God, essentially.' Now, in Indiana, that cost him the election.
"And in Missouri, Todd Akin was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, 'Look, in a legitimate rape situation' - and what he meant by legitimate rape was just, look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents - that's pretty tough - and might on some occasion say, 'Hey, I was raped.' That's what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape.
"I don't find anything so horrible about that," Gingrey said. "But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman's body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He's partly right on that."
He made the comments to the Smyrna Area Council of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, according to the newspaper.
Gingrey added that he has been an OB-GYN since 1975 and understands pregnancies.
"And I've delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, 'Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don't be so tense and uptight, because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.' So he was partially right, wasn't he?" Gingrey said. "But the fact that a woman may have already ovulated 12 hours before she is raped, you're not going to prevent a pregnancy there by a woman's body shutting anything down, because the horse has already left the barn, so to speak. And yet the media took that and tore it apart," the congressman said.
Gingrey is co-chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, which was formed in March 2009 to challenge President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. He also is a member of the health subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce panel.
He sought to explain his comments, saying in a statement issued by his office Friday, "At a breakfast yesterday morning, I was asked why Democrats made abortion a central theme of the presidential campaign. I do not defend, nor do I stand by, the remarks made by Rep. Akin and Mr. Mourdock. In my attempt to provide context as to what I presumed they meant, my position was misconstrued."
Gingrey's initial comments drew widespread criticism.
"Just when I think Republicans can't possibly be any more wrong when it comes to women, they find a new low. In one fell swoop, Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey said women regularly lie about being raped, that they're able to prevent a pregnancy simply by 'being tense and uptight,' and that Todd Akin had a point," said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List.
Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it was "alarming and telling" that the head of the GOP Doctors Caucus shared Akin's views.