WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Representative Todd Akin on Wednesday dismissed calls from party leaders that he drop out of the Missouri Senate race after his controversial remarks on abortion and rape, saying party officials should not overrule voters.
Akin has been under fire since he said on Sunday that rape victims could not get pregnant. He backtracked on that position in appearances on several morning TV programs on Wednesday, saying he was wrong to say the female body could shut down reproduction when raped.
"The people of Missouri chose me, and I don't believe it's right for party bosses to decide to override those voters," Akin said on ABC's "Good Morning America" program.
"It makes me uncomfortable to think that the party bosses are going to dictate who runs, as opposed to the election process," he added.
Akin won the primary race against several other Republicans earlier this month to challenge Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill in the November 6 election.
Democrats control the Senate and Republicans need to pick up four seats to take over the chamber. Prior to the Akin controversy, Republicans considered McCaskill one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents.
"I've made the decision to stay in because I believe we can win this race," he told ABC.
But when pressed, Akin did not rule out stepping down later. "I'm never going to say everything that could possibly happen. I don't know the future," he said.
Under Missouri election law, Akin had until Tuesday to get his name off the ballot without having to seek a court order.
A number of Republican leaders, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have called on the congressman to quit the race after he said in an interview Sunday that it was extremely rare for women to get pregnant from "legitimate rape."
On NBC's "Today" program, Akin said he was not staying in the race for personal gain.
"It's about trying to do the right thing and stand on principle ... This is not about me or about my ego. It is about the Missouri voters."
On both television shows said he was wrong about the medical facts about rape.
On Sunday he had said that pregnancy from rape was "really rare" because: "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." That notion has been widely discounted by medical experts.
"That's not true. I was misinformed," he told NBC.
(Reporting By Susan Heavey; Editing by Eric Beech)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp