Sparks Fly Over Lawmaker's Rape Remarks

By: CNN's Ashley Killough and Deirdre Walsh
By: CNN's Ashley Killough and Deirdre Walsh


WASHINGTON (CNN) - Rep. Trent Franks, R-Arizona, said he was taken out of context Wednesday and tried to clarify his controversial comment from a committee markup earlier in the day, when he said the "incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low."

Franks intended to say that the number of abortions due to rape after the start of the sixth month of gestation would be low, not the number of rapes resulting in pregnancy.

"I told my staff to fasten their seatbelts," Franks told reporters Wednesday, adding he knew Democrats would work to distort his comments.

But he conceded: "Unfortunately perhaps I assisted them a little bit in the phraseology that allowed them to do it."

Franks' original comment came during a discussion about his proposal to ban abortions after 20 weeks, a time at which he says research indicates unborn children can begin to feel pain.

Abortion was legalized in all 50 states in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Statutory time limits on when abortions can take place, however, vary from state to state.

When asked about exceptions for cases of rape or incest, Franks said at the hearing it was "flawed" logic to think a pregnant woman would wait six months to report a rape.

"To say that we wait until then, to say that there's a rape or incest involved, is waiting too long," he said, adding that laws need to be tougher on rapists.

When he was asked why his legislation does not include a requirement that rape be reported–as for exception cases in other abortion laws–Franks replied with his controversial comment.

"Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject- because you know the, the incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low, but when you make that exception, there's usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours."

"And in this case, that's impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation, and that's what completely negates and vitiates the purpose of such an amendment," he added.

Franks later told reporters that after the committee markup on Wednesday, he met with House GOP leaders to discuss the situation and said "they are certainly not dissuaded." While he didn't give names on who exactly he met with, he said it was the "highest echelon of leadership."

His comments were a reminder to some of other statements made about rape and pregnancy by Republican candidates last year–namely Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who was running for the U.S. Senate in Missouri when he argued a woman's body was capable of preventing pregnancy during cases of "legitimate rape."

A fellow member of Congress jumped on Franks' remark later during the hearing Wednesday.

"I just find it astonishing to hear a phrase repeated that the incidence of pregnancy from rape is low," said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. "There's no scientific basis for that. And the idea that the Republican men on this committee can tell the women of America that they have to carry to term the product of a rape is outrageous."

National Democratic groups have also pounced on the statement, sending emails to reporters to highlight the remark and issuing disapproving statements.

Franks later noted on his Facebook page that the Judiciary Committee passed his bill by a vote of 20 in favor to 12 opposed.

"I look forward to a floor vote on the bill," he wrote.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the committee passage of the bill proves that Republicans are "out of touch and extreme."

"This is yet another attempt by the Republican Party to overturn Roe v. Wade. Republicans passed the bill along a party-line vote, and they are expected to send the bill to the full House for a vote next week," she said in a statement, which also criticized Franks.

The Republican congressman told reporters that Democrats had instigated the whole controversy.

"The rape thing was something the Democrats injected. I never would have dealt with that issue. Our bill doesn't deal with that because it's the beginning of the six month [of pregnancy]."

He said Democrats are trying to shift the debate. "That was their goal – was to make something other than the issue the issue and I think that they have had some success in that regard and people are a lot brighter...They will talk about anything other than six month babies being tortuously murdered."


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