An "outrageous and demeaning" comment by a Republican Party candidate for the US Senate has again dragged the party into the mire over women's rights.
The Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock said in a debate in New Albany that when a woman became pregnant during a rape "that is something that God intended to happen".
A spokeswoman for the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney moved to distance him from the comment. Andrea Saul said in an email that Mr Mourdock's comments "do not reflect" Mr Romney's views.
Mourdock's comments come a day after a new advert featuring Mr Romney giving his support for the Republican candidate went on the air.
During the debate, Mourdock was asked his view asked about abortion.
"The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother," Mourdock said. "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 God intended to happen."
Mourdock, the state treasurer who is a favourite of the conservative Tea Party movement, ousted long-time Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary earlier this year. He is locked in a tight race with Donnelly ahead of the 6 November election.
His comment quickly drew criticism from his Democrat challenger Joe Donnelly, who is locked in a tight race with Mr Mourdock. Donnelly said that rape "is a heinous and violent crime in every instance".
"The God I believe in and the God I know most Hoosiers believe in, does not intend for rape to happen - ever," Donnelly said in a statement after the debate, using the nickname for Indiana residents. "What Mr Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Mourdock's comments "outrageous and demeaning to women."
Mourdock issued a statement after the debate that said: "God creates life, and that was my point. God does not want rape, and by no means was I suggesting that He does. Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick."
Two months ago, Todd Akin, the Republican Congressman who is running for the US Senate in Missouri and who sits on a science and technology committee in the House of Representatives, averred in a television interview last month that in cases of "legitimate rape" women "rarely" become pregnant because of some kind of mechanism in their bodies that blocks conception.
AP and Reuters