Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said pregnancies resulting from rape are part of God's plan, tearfully explaining that he only supports abortions when a mother's life is in danger.
"I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen," Mourdock said during Tuesday's Senate debate, choking up. Mourdock's opponent, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, opposes abortion except in cases of rape and incest.
After the debate, Mourdock further explained his comment.
"Are you trying to suggest somehow that God preordained rape, no I don't think that," said Mourdock, according to The Associated Press. "Anyone who would suggest that is just sick and twisted. No, that's not even close to what I said."
Democrats wasted no time linking GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney to Mourdock. Earlier this week, Romney personally appeared in a TV ad for the Indiana state treasurer, offering his endorsement.
"Richard Mourdock's rape comments are outrageous and demeaning to women. Unfortunately, they've become part and parcel of the modern Republican Party's platform toward women's health, as Congressional Republicans like Paul Ryan have worked to outlaw all abortions and even narrow the definition of rape," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement released to press.
"As Mourdock's most prominent booster and the star of Mourdock's current campaign ads, Mitt Romney should immediately denounce these comments and request that the ad featuring him speaking directly to camera on Mourdock's behalf be taken off the air," she added.
"Mitt's man Mourdock apes Akin, reflecting a GOP that is way out of mainstream," Obama strategist David Axelrod tweeted.
Romney's campaign distanced itself from Mourdock's comment.
"Gov. Romney disagrees with Richard Mourdock's comments, and they do not reflect his views," campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Abortion has become a more prominent issue in the presidential campaign in recent weeks, as Mitt Romney told the Des Moines Register that he would not pursue any specific abortion legislation as president and began airing a new TV ad in which a woman touts Romney's support for abortions in cases of rape and incest-a difference of opinion between Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan.
The Obama campaign hit Romney on abortion soon after, releasing a TV ad of its own that features footage from a 2007 GOP presidential primary debate in which Romney said he would be "delighted" to sign a bill banning all abortions in the U.S.
Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said during an interview in August that women's bodies have ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of what he called "legitimate rape." Akin apologized for the comment, but refused to leave the race despite pressure from his own party.
Update from ABC's Jonathan Karl:
Some Republicans are scrambling to limit the damage from controversial comments by a second GOP Senate candidate on rape and abortion.
"Richard and I, along with millions of Americans - including even Joe Donnelly - believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous. In fact, rather than condemning him for his position, as some in his party have when it's come to Republicans, I commend Congressman Donnelly for his support of life."But this election is about big ideas and the reality that our country is going in the wrong direction. If you support Obamacare, government bailouts, reckless spending and higher taxes than you should vote for Joe Donnelly. But if you believe, as I do, that our government is too big, our taxes are too high, and we are passing an irresponsible debt onto future generations, than Richard Mourdock is your candidate to help get our country back on track."
ABC News' Elizabeth Hartfield and David Muir contributed to this report.