Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

Trent Franks Says He Sidelined Himself on Abortion Bill

Rep. Trent Franks decided on his own to lower his profile after he provoked a firestorm by saying it is rare for women to become pregnant as a result of rape, he told CQ Roll Call.

When the bill he offered banning abortions after 20 weeks came to the floor last week, the Arizona Republican sat on the sidelines while Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., led the floor debate in his stead. Franks told CQ Roll Call that it was his choice and said it wasn’t forced on him by leadership.

“Here’s what I did,” Franks told CQ Roll Call on June 20. “When I heard the question was being considered about who to manage the bill, I went to leadership and said, ‘Let me make this very easy for you. I want to do what’s right for the cause and I think it’s very reasonable for women of this conference to take the lead.’”

Franks was the obvious choice to manage time on the House floor until he fumbled over his words at the Judiciary Committee markup of the bill a week earlier. He had meant to say, he said, that it is rare for pregnant women who have been raped to seek abortions after six months.

The choice of Blackburn — who is not a member of the Judiciary Committee — struck critics as a manipulative ploy to score political points after Franks’ incendiary comments. No House GOP stalwarts spoke out publicly against Franks, but the decision to exclude him from any participation in floor debate felt awkward at best. Franks sat quietly in the chamber for the entirety of the debate, looking as if he had been placed in the time-out chair.

But Franks said he was glad to step aside to let GOP women take the lead: “I was totally fine with it, because I believe that I was serving the cause the best I could, which is my fundamental purpose.

“I have no doubts the comments would have been a distraction,” Franks continued. “But in trying to take away their ability to distract from the issue, I think, was the right thing for the issue, the clarity of the debate and the protection of mothers and their unborn children. … It was always the intent of our opponents; I just wish I hadn’t assisted them so adroitly.”

Asked which member of leadership he spoke to, Franks said it was either Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio; Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; or Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Aides for all three could not confirm.

  • Dirk Diggler

    He was in a time out chair, as is most of the GOP with women for the next 10 years. Just look to Texas to see how the base of the GOP feels about reproductive rights, family planning, assistance to poor women.

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