NEW ALBANY, Indiana (AP) — Another Republican running for U.S. Senate has angered voters after telling a live television audience that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape, "that's something God intended." Women voters are key to this year's presidential race, and Republican challenger Mitt Romney has been drawn into this latest issue.
Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who's been locked in one of the country's most expensive and closely watched races, was asked during a debate Tuesday whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," Mourdock said.
Mourdock became the second Republican Senate candidate to find himself on the defensive over comments about rape and pregnancy. Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin said in August that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape." Akin has repeatedly apologized but has refused to leave his race despite calls to do so by leaders of his own party, including Romney.
Romney distanced himself from Mourdock on Tuesday night, a day after a television ad featuring him supporting Mourdock began airing in Indiana.
But his campaign on Wednesday said Romney still supports Mourdock, and the campaign has not asked Mourdock to take down the ad. Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Romney disagrees with Mourdock's opposition to abortion in cases of rape and incest, but she said Romney still supports Mourdock's bid. Romney himself has not commented.
Mourdock's comments shake Republicans as they try to gain a majority in the Senate. Republicans need to gain three seats, or four if President Barack Obama wins re-election, and seats that were predicted to remain or turn Republican have grown uncertain.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Obama finds Richard Mourdock's comments "outrageous and demeaning to women."
Mourdock explained after the debate that he did not believe God intended the rape but that God is the only one who can create life.
"Are you trying to suggest somehow that God preordained rape, no I don't think that," Mourdock said. "Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that's not even close to what I said."
Mourdock has consistently opposed abortion, with the exception of cases where the mother's life is in danger.
Mourdock on Wednesday stood by his statement and said some people have twisted his comment.
He told a news conference he firmly believes that all life is precious and abhors violence of any kind.
"If they came away with any impression other than that, I truly regret it. I apologize if they came away. I've certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that somehow was an interpretation," Mourdock said.