Missouri state Rep. Barry Hovis, a Republican, used the term "consensual rape" when arguing in favor of a proposal that would ban abortions in the state after eight weeks of pregnancy — even in cases of incest or rape.
Hovis, a retired law enforcement official, apologized Friday. He said he misspoke during the debate on the bill.
Hovis took to the floor to say that many of the sexual assault cases he'd handled during his career did not involve strangers.
"Most of my rapes were not the gentleman jumping out of the bushes that nobody had ever met. That was one or two times out of 100. Most of them were date rapes or consensual rapes," Hovis said.
Shortly after Hovis's comments, Democratic Rep. Raychel Proudie told members on the House floor that "there is no such thing as consensual rape."
Missouri's Republican-led House passed the bill Friday, and Republican Gov. Mike Parson has pledged to sign it. If he does so, many of the bill's provisions would take effect in late August.
Missouri is among a host of other states, including Ohio, Alabama, and Mississippi, that have recently introduced controversial legislation to restrict abortions. Those laws will likely be challenged in courts, which is the point. Anti–abortion rights advocates hope the cases will reach the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
"It's my apology if I didn't [enunciate] the word 'or,'" Hovis told the Associated Press after the comment drew backlash from other state representatives and abortion rights advocates.
Hovis also told the AP that he'd misspoke and that he'd meant to say "date rapes or consensual or rape." He added that he believes there's no such thing as "consensual rape."
"I've never believed that," Hovis told KCTV. "When you talk about consensual rape, there's no such thing. It's either consensual or it's rape."
"When you make a mistake and say something you did not mean to articulate it wrong, then I want to make sure I apologize if I offended anyone and try to make sure I get my message out of what I was trying to say," Hovis told KCTV.
He was also asked why he referred to a rapist as a "gentleman" during his comments.
"So if they're actually a rapist I'd tell you they're not a gentleman, but until they're convicted of that then everyone would have their own decision to make on that," Hovis said.
Hovis didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.