Rep. Gingrey, mulling Senate bid, regrets defending Todd Akin

Gingrey, an obstetrician, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he had made "a very awkward attempt to explain the unexplainable" when he backed Akin in January. He disavowed his earlier remarks, calling them "stupid."

"Rape is rape. If it's rape, it's legitimate. I certainly regret very much weighing in on that issue, which was something that was already pretty much roundly condemned and criticized. I felt so badly about it, because my profession is treating women," said Gingrey.

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The lawmaker also said he'd met with the head of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to go over "articles and more recent journals."

"Whereas Todd said the panic would cause a body to shut down and prevent ovulation, more recent data suggests just the opposite is probably true," Gingrey said. "So you learn."

The congressman had said in January he didn't find "anything so horrible" about Akin's use of the phrase "legitimate rape" and that the then-Senate hopeful was "partly right" in his claim that in cases of rape women rarely get pregnant. 

"What [Akin] meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say 'I was raped': a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that's pretty tough, and might on some occasion say, 'Hey, I was raped,' " Gingrey said at the time. "That's what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don't find anything so horrible about that."

"But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman's body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He's partly right on that," he continued.

The comments have concerned some Republicans as they seek to find a candidate to run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). The worry is that Gingrey's past statements could become an issue in a general election campaign, threatening the party's chances at holding the seat.

Gingrey has said he's leaning toward running. Sources tell The Hill that he's already told a number of Georgia Republicans he plans to run.

The only candidate officially in the race at this point is Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), another Republican with a history of making controversial remarks. Broun has repeatedly called President Obama as a socialist, and once called evolution and the big bang theory "lies straight from the pit of hell."

Others considering the race are Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who's said he won't make a decision until May, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R).

No Democrats have jumped into the race, though Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) hasn't ruled out a bid.