NEW ALBANY, United States of America: 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.
"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in an email to The Associated Press. Romney aides would not say whether the ad would be pulled and if the Republican presidential nominee would continue to support Mourdock's Senate bid.
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.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz described Mourdock's comments as "outrageous and demeaning to women" and called on Romney to take his pro-Mourdock ad off the air.
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."