Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 21, 2014

Franks’ Rape Remark Stokes Abortion Controversy

Updated 2:38 p.m. | House Republican leaders — already battling Democratic criticism for planning to bring a bill to the floor next week that would ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide — now have to fend off fallout after Rep. Trent Franks waded into the treacherous politics of pregnancies resulting from rape.

The bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee 20-12 on Wednesday afternoon, almost completely along party lines. The vote came a few hours after the Arizona Republican and bill sponsor said that “the instance of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.”

The statement was made in reference to an amendment offered by House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., that would allow women to have abortions after the 20-week threshold in cases of rape and incest; there are no such exceptions written into the bill.

Franks argued that those exceptions were moot, as the legislation was designed to protect unborn fetuses after 20 weeks and most abortion laws that provide exceptions for rape victims are valid only if the victim reports the crime within 48 hours.

The point was further moot, he continued, because of what he said is the low rate of pregnancy resulting from cases of rape.

By the afternoon, Franks was already trying to clarify his comments after Democrats seized on them.

“My friends on the other side constantly want to try to inject the rape/incest question always into the debate,” Franks said. “Just to make clear my point earlier, pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare. That’s a matter of fact.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., retorted, “The suggestion that rape rarely leads to pregnancy has no basis in science or fact.”

Franks responded, “And I would just like to point out that I never made such a suggestion.”

Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., backed up Franks, saying few abortions performed after the start of the sixth month are related to rape.

Franks’ statement was reminiscent of one made last summer by former GOP Rep. Todd Akin that all but sank his 2012 Senate challenge to Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. It was almost instantly seized on by Democrats on the committee, particularly Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York and Lofgren. It will surely come up again if the bill hits the floor next week, as scheduled.

Democrats were already on the offensive Wednesday morning. By the time Franks spoke about rape and pregnancy rates, Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had already sent out an alert to reporters about the markup, noting that all 22 of the House Judiciary Committee Republicans are male. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a similar release.

“There is no more eloquent a message to the women of America than the sight of an all-male Republican panel advancing a bill to restrict women’s health choices,” Hammill said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “House Republicans are forcing through a bill that makes absolutely no allowance for protecting the health of women, or the victims of rape and incest.”

Caitlin Legacki, who worked as spokeswoman for McCaskill’s 2012 campaign, told CQ Roll Call that as a political matter, statements like the one
 Franks made Wednesday will only help Democrats.

“As Republicans continue to fail miserably at their ‘rebranding’ efforts
 across the board, incidents like this one (and all the others before it) 
serve only to remind independent and moderate voters how far gone today’s 
Republican Party really is,” Legacki said in an email. “As long as 
Republicans continue to subscribe to these beliefs, which are just 
fundamentally and factually incorrect, you’ll continue to see Democrats 
over-performing with women, moderates, independents and anyone else with
even a mild case of empathy.”

Spokesmen for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., declined to comment on Franks’ remarks or offer insights into how such remarks could affect the House Republican Conference’s overall image.

Niels Lesniewski and Joanna Anderson contributed to this report.

  • Derrick Schnur

    Leave it to a woman to use that gender card. I am not Republican nor am I a Democrat. Personally I feel that as long as I’m (taxpayers) not paying for someone’s abortion, then it should be up to the ownet of the body having the abortion. I think abortion clinics should be on every corner next to Circle K for convenience. I think I will start promoting abortion in my community. As I look around my community I see many people that I feel should have been aborted. Now it creates more work and utilizes more of our finite resources to get rid of them later in life–after they’ve grown up!

  • darthgidget

    while his comment was ill-advised, can someone explain to me why women who are pregnant from rape or incest need to wait until after the 20th week to decide to have an abortion? I would guess that in such cases the victim would want the abortion sooner rather than later. But I am not a woman and would not even pretend to understand the thought process. But based on the discussion by the libs- do they believe a woman who was raped and became pregnant needs more time to terminate the pregnancy than a non-rape or non-incest pregnancy? Spock would find no logic here either.

    • purfact

      Incest would be the bigger issue as is may be hard to get away even to report. Point is they are trying to redefine life and putting stipulations on women that will effect their lives. What they really want is life at conception, forcing women to carry a mans seed whether she is raped or not [1 in 4 have been]. They are having fits cause women are the ‘breadwinners’ of many families which is also chauvinist. After it is born to low income women they cut programs that help the kids they feel were so important, forcing the issue to bring it into the world. They berate ‘welfare mothers’ and want to defund. It is a personal issue and should not be a legislative issue.

    • HeraSentMe

      You answered your own question. You aren’t a woman, you can’t get pregnant through rape, and you therefore need to shut your yap.

      • Rob

        Baloney. This concept that a man cannot understand the abortion issue or comment on it is pure idiocy. If that’s the standard, men better stop being OBGYNs and female doctors better stop treating testicular cancer. Your argument has no basis in reason, it’s a political taking point designed to play on emotions. It’s the lowest form of argument.

        • HeraSentMe

          A) Who cares what you think?

          B) My comment was in response to yon dimwit admitting he couldn’t understand what being a raped woman was like, while rejecting the idea that one might be so traumatized, injured or guilt-ridden that she didn’t immediately run to get the rapist’s spawn aborted.

          C. I’ve always thought most male OB/GYNs registered on a scale of arrogant to perverted, and only existed in the first place because women were kept from becoming doctors until very recently. How many female doctors specialize in penises and scrotums?

          D) See A.

          • Rob

            Do you spend a lot of time wondering why people hate you?

  • voltaic

    GOP is living in the past with outdated notions of race, religion and science, but the most damaging aspect of this ignorance is they try to drag to rest of the country down to their prehistoric levels of thinking. GOP acts as if they are the children that were left behind…..

  • HeraSentMe

    I’m sure the estimated 30,000 women who were impregnated through rape last year are happy to know their situation is too rare for Franks to care about.

  • hepette

    hes just a plain ignorant fool

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