Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 25, 2014

Rape, Incest Exceptions Added to Abortion Bill (Updated)

Updated 4:45 p.m. | House Republican leaders have added rape and incest exceptions to Rep. Trent Franks’ bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, two days after a backlash was sparked by the Arizona Republican’s assertion that pregnancies from rape are rare.

The modifications to H.R. 1797, which leaders plan to bring to the floor for debate next week, would allow abortions after 20 weeks if the rape or incest involving a minor has been reported to “appropriate enforcement authorities.”

Republicans on the Judiciary Committee had blocked Democrats’ efforts to add rape and incest exemptions during the Wednesday markup. Franks dismissed those efforts because “the instance of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.” When the panel reconvened after an hour-long lunch break he sought to clarify that he meant that “pregnancies from rape that result in abortion after the beginning of the sixth month are very rare.”

“I was not addressing when or how a woman becomes pregnant,” Franks said on Thursday evening in an interview with CQ Roll Call, more than 24 hours after Democrats and pro-abortion rights groups seized on the comments and drew up comparisons to ex-Rep. Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican whose remarks about “legitimate rape” helped sink his 2012 Senate bid against Democrat Claire McCaskill.

The decision to add rape and incest exemptions into the bill could be seen as a concession designed to assuage critics in the wake of the fallout from the markup. Prior to the announcement that the measure would be amended, however, Franks said he hadn’t been given any indication he had upset Republican leadership.

“Everybody’s been wonderful to me,” he said. “I have had no repercussions, but I certainly would accept any admonishment that is passed my way because, in the phraseology, I gave those who were disingenuous in that debate a chance to articulate a totally different meaning than I had intended.”

When asked if he had wished he could have spoken differently, Franks said, “I certainly do.”

But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who is the ranking member to Franks’ chairman on the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, said on Friday he wasn’t convinced by Franks’ defense.

“He said what he said. It indicates his opinion,” Nadler said. “He tried to walk it back. It was interesting: We broke for lunch [and] his Republican colleagues must have beaten him up over lunch. That’s what all the Democrats are assuming. Nobody buys it.”

Though Democrats might be gratified by the revisions, they aren’t likely to win votes on that side of the aisle, or assuage moderate Republicans such as Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, who, in an interview with CQ Roll Call, ripped the idea of moving an abortion bill in an interview as “staggering” stupidity.

  • brenda black

    This is a problem that these men will never go through. Why are they so against the rights that females should have.

    • Renee Reinhardt

      They want women to be brood mares.

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