NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said Tuesday when a woman is impregnated during a rape, "it's something God intended."
Mourdock, who's been locked in a tight race with Democratic challenger Rep. Joe Donnelly, was asked during the final minutes of a debate 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 happened," Mourdock said.
The race between Mourdock and Donnelly has been one of the nation's most expensive — and most watched — Senate races since the Republican unseated veteran U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in May's GOP primary. Mourdock's comments come two months after embattled Missouri GOP Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said during a television interview that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape."
Since his comment, Akin has repeatedly apologized but has refused to leave his race despite calls to do so by leaders of his own party, from GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on down. It was not clear what affect, if any, Mourdock's comment might have during the final two weeks before the Nov. 6 election.
But it quickly placed the tea party-backed candidate on the defensive, one day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came to Indianapolis for a fundraiser and after the campaign released a spot from Romney asking Hoosiers to support Mourdock.
Indiana Republican Party spokesman Pete Seat referred comment to the Mourdock campaign.
National Democrats quickly picked up on Mourdock's statement and used it as an opportunity to paint him as an extreme candidate, calling him a tea party "zealot."