Richard Mourdock, running for U.S. Senate in Indiana, said at a debate Tuesday that pregnancies resulting from rape are intended by God.
The Republican candidate was explaining his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest when he made the remark.
"I struggled with it myself for a long time, and I realized that life is a 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 said, explaining that he would allow for exceptions to an abortion ban when a mother's life is in danger.
In early May, Mourdock defeated longtime GOP Sen. Richard Lugar in a bitterly contested GOP primary vote, and is facing Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in November's election.
In a statement following the debate, Mourdock wrote that "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," he continued.
Donnelly also responded, writing, "I think 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. What Mr. Mourdock said is shocking, and it is stunning that he would be so disrespectful to survivors of rape."
Mourdock has enjoyed support from GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who traveled to Indiana in August to campaign for the tea party-backed candidate alongside former Vice President Dan Quayle and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Romney has also appeared in a television ad for Mourdock.