Protesters march through the halls of the Missouri Capitol outside the House chamber. Picture: AP Photo/David A. Lieb

Washington - A Republican Missouri legislator apologised Friday for saying that some sexual assaults are "consensual rapes" during a debate over a new, restrictive antiabortion bill.

"I'm not trying to make excuses," said Rep. Barry Hovis, who represents the city of Jackson in southeastern Missouri. "Sometimes you make a mistake and you own up to it.

The lawmaker, who was elected in 2018, made the remark while speaking on the State House floor, arguing that the measure's eight-week window for abortions "gives [rape survivors] ample time" for the procedure. Critics say many women do not know they are pregnant until after eight weeks, and the bill provides no exceptions for rape or incest.

The 30-year veteran of the Cape Girardeau Police Department then touched on his experience handling rape cases.

"Let's just say someone goes out and they're raped or they're sexually assaulted one night after a college party - because most of my rapes were not the gentleman jumping out of the bushes that nobody had ever met," Hovis said. "That was one or two times out of a hundred. Most of them were date rapes or consensual rapes, which were all terrible."

Rep. Raychel Proudie, a Democrat, quickly rebuked him.

"There is no such thing, no such thing as consensual rape," she said to applause from the chamber.

Hovis later told The Washington Post that he misspoke and said he believes "there was no such thing as consensual rape."

He added that, in all his years in law enforcement, he took the testimony of rape victims seriously.

"When a rape is reported, and I'll speak for myself, you always take the word of the victim," he said.

Missouri's GOP-controlled House passed the antiabortion bill Friday, which comes as lawmakers in multiple states have passed restrictive abortion laws that advocates on both sides say are aimed at getting the Supreme Court to consider overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Hovis's remarks recalled a controversial comment made in 2012 by Todd Akin, a former Missouri congressman, that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy. After losing a 2012 race for U.S. Senate, Akin tried to clarify his words, saying he should have said "legitimate case of rape."

The Washington Post