INDIANAPOLIS | Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock on Wednesday reaffirmed his controversial claim that women who are raped should not be permitted to obtain an abortion because pregnancies resulting from rape are "something that God intended to happen."
"I spoke from my heart. I spoke for my principles. I spoke for my faith," Mourdock said. "I believe it is wrong that people want to twist what I said, but if in any way you came away with the wrong meaning, for that I do apologize."
Speaking to reporters at state Republican Party headquarters, Mourdock said repeatedly he does not condone rape or believe that God would ever want to see anyone harmed.
"I don't think God wants rape. I don't think he wants that at all because rape is evil," Mourdock said. "I abhor evil."
But Mourdock declined several times to explain how he believes a pregnancy resulting from rape is God's will, but God is not responsible for the rape itself.
"I've come to my faith over 61 years and I can't explain the nuances of God," said Mourdock, an evangelical Christian. "In this sense, I'm going respect His purpose."
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Donnelly, a Catholic who opposes abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of a pregnant woman, disavowed Mourdock's "extreme" rhetoric.
"When you say in regards to rape that pregnancy from rape is God's intention ... I just think that's hurtful and insulting to women, to rape survivors and to the families," said Donnelly, standing outside an Indianapolis sexual abuse crisis center.
Mourdock's rape remarks during Tuesday's U.S. Senate debate in New Albany, Ind., prompted a firestorm of criticism in Indiana and across the nation Wednesday.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence announced he disagrees with Mourdock's stance, as did Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But a Romney ad endorsing Mourdock will continue to air on Northwest Indiana cable TV stations, Mourdock said.
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who was scheduled to campaign with Mourdock in Indianapolis and Lafayette on Wednesday, canceled her trip to Indiana and said Mourdock's position does not represent her views.
However, U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said he's still backing Mourdock.
"I believe his underlying intent was to defend innocent unborn human life and not to condone any type of violent act against women," Coats said. "Nothing has changed my conviction that we need a Republican majority in the Senate to support a Romney presidency or to counter the Obama agenda."
It remains to be seen what effect the incident will have on the race to replace Republican Dick Lugar in the U.S. Senate.
Every poll since Mourdock defeated Lugar in the May GOP primary has found Mourdock and Donnelly in a statistical tie, with Libertarian Andrew Horning favored by up to 8 percent of Hoosiers. A new survey of likely voters, co-sponsored by The Times, is set to be released late next week.
Marie Eisenstein, associate professor of political science at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, said she believes the controversy won't change the dynamics of the race.
"While Mourdock will be perceived by some as too extreme because of this issue, Donnelly is a more liberal Democrat than Hoosiers have historically supported," Eisenstein said. "Thus, within the context of this election, it will not change it."
Rape, abortion and the will of God are all but certain to be on the agenda when Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham meet at 6 p.m. region time Thursday in Fort Wayne for the final gubernatorial debate prior to Election Day, Nov. 6.