Mourdock's comment in a televised debate (see video below) recalled the infamous "legitmate rape" gaffe by his party's Senate candidate in Missouri, Rep. Todd Akin.
Akin was showered with scorn for saying that women who were raped had a way of "shutting down" pregnancy. His own party tried, without success, to force him out of the race, and he has fallen behind incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
The statement by Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, was reported Tuesday night by Talking Points Memo.
Mourdock, explaining his opposition to abortion in all cases but danger to the life of the mother, stated that if a woman becomes pregnant through nonconsensual sex then it is the will of God.
“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Quickly realizing that what he said would offend many, he tried to backpedal.
“Are you trying to suggest that somehow I think God ordained or pre-ordained rape? No, I don’t think that anyone could suggest that. That’s a sick, twisted - no, that’s not even close to what I said,” he told reporters after the debate, according to the Evansville Courier & Press.
But he maintained that he believes conception is determined by a higher power.
“It is a fundamental part of my faith that God gives us life. God determines when life begins,” Mourdock said. “I believe in an almighty God who makes those calls. … There are some things in life that are above my pay grade.”
Mourdock's opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who calls himself pro-life and opposes abortion in most cases -- but makes an exception for rape and incest as well as the mother’s health -- later issued a written response:
“The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in, does not intend for rape to happen — ever. What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape.”
Mourdock defeated the veteran and highly respected Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., in the GOP primary as a tea party insurgent. While Lugar would have held the seat easily in a general election, the race between Mourdock and Donnelly has been extremely close and could go either way -- and determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Late Tuesday, the campaign of Mitt Romney, who just made a TV spot for Mourdock, told TPM: “Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock’s comments, and they do not reflect his views.”