June 12th, 2013
06:28 PM ET
9 years ago

Rep. Franks tries to clear up rape comment

(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."

Filed under: Abortion • House
soundoff (302 Responses)
  1. aaron

    "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.""

    this guy wants to claim a fetus is a six month old baby that is being tortured while claiming the otherside is shifting the debate? What are these peoples problems stop trying to change abortion and maybe oyu won't put yourself in these rape conterversies.

    June 12, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  2. Evergreen

    Women bodies' are still more important to the GOP than a jobs bill, tax reform, sustainable energy, and the Enviroment. So tired of this...

    June 12, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Republicans need to stay away from the rape word, they do NOT know how to handle it, with any sensibility.

    June 12, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  4. emskadittle

    wow, they cannot help themselves

    June 12, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  5. Steve

    He said nothing wrong.

    June 12, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  6. Larry in Houston

    """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"""

    Guess they will never learn – will they ? Has he already forgot about the one from Missouri – – who made similar remarks ?? lol – – – more fodder for 2016, I guess.

    June 12, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  7. us_1776

    Another Todd Akins wannabe.


    June 12, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  8. Peter Clarke

    I can never get my head around why the GOP and a social issue like abortion are front and center with these holy roller lawmakers. They haven't come close to solving many important issues while waiting for the rapture and speaking in tongues.

    June 12, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  9. scooter

    Yet another Republican downplaying rape. What's with that GOP!

    June 12, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  10. The Thinker1958

    this guy changes the whole context of his remarks during his "correction" and is suppose to be the Democrats fault? If he is not that smart and can make this kind of mistake why is he on the Government? I suggest an IQ test.

    June 12, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  11. bassora

    "Unfortunately perhaps I assisted them a little bit in the phraseology that allowed them to do it."
    Phraseology is concerned with phrases like "kick the bucket" - we know what that phrase means although the inidivdual words have a different meaning. Actually, the problem was phraseology in action: it's called "foot in mouth."

    June 12, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  12. c

    It is ludicrous to think a baby cannot feel pain before 20 weeks. They are kicking, sucking, they have fingers toes, and everything major is in place, they are just very tiny. They feel pain. IN fact, they may have MORE pain because skin is not fully developed. You can't tell me that ramming scissors into a babys back or pulling them limb from limb doesn't hurt!

    I know of babies born at 24 weeks who are alive and well. My own children were born at 28 weeks.
    They were fully babies.

    It is just bizarre we have discussions about whether to pull a baby apart at all!
    It is a baby if it is wanted. A fetus if it isn't.
    We live in a cold society.

    June 12, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  13. Vence

    War on women 3.5

    June 12, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  14. retphxfire

    No surprise something like this coming from Franks. He's been a right-wing radical nut here in Arizona for years. However, he was elected...by the far-right radical wing of the State. The selfishness and ignorance starts with all the retirees voting down school bonds ("why should we pay for other peoples kids when we don't have any in school?", ignoring the fact 'mature' homeowners paid for THEIR kids schools) and ends with a narcissist sheriff STILL trying to prove Obama wasn't born in Hawaii, at taxpayer expense, too. We have to have the most dysfunctional legislature voted for by the most self-involved, ignorant by choice citizens. I've lived here since 1970 and it's always been a state of selfish, party line voters, but it's out of control now. McCain, the 'Great Flipper', who has shown other AZ Congressman that they can flip on promises, make outrageous choices (You betcha'), etc and still get elected and reelected. Franks is just doing it the AZ way.

    June 12, 2013 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  15. William

    Funny, that it is always taken out of Context....Really? Always?

    June 12, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. ...

    He knew what he said, and said what he really thought. Then he talked to his lawyer. Oops.

    June 12, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  17. rosethornne

    Persons who could not possibly become pregnant have no business discussing, much less legislating about, abortion.

    June 12, 2013 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  18. Joaquin

    It is no wonder that Edward Snowden did not choose to communicate his concern over government spying "through the proper channels." These current elected Republicans either grandstand and waste time invading women's privacy, or they block decent and useful actions on jobs, the budget, gun control, and the list goes on. It is they who are the real anarchists.

    June 12, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  19. Julie

    I would take great pleasure if about 25 male Republican congressman would have the opportunity to experience a full term pregnancy. Just that issue alone would have them running the other direction in trying to pass such crazy legislation around pregnancy issues. Now have those pregnancies forced upon them against there will. I truly doubt we would have any laws being passed to force them to carry a child full term. Truly outrageous!!! They are so out of touch. They do not seem to learn from past elections that woman have a right over their own bodies. PERIOD!

    June 12, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. Elaine Whitmanbonner

    Let me just say that it was not a democrat who said those words! It was Rep.Trent Franks who made those of Arizona. asinine remarks. I am not complaining about living here; however I am ashamed that politicians such as Franks, Gov. Brewer, Jeff Flake and other FAR RIGHT WINGERS are guilty of being out of touch with the real world and have their heads so far up their (well you know where). They apparently think only of themselves, not the average citizens. From taking away the rights of AZ women to make medical decisions for themselves to putting up immigration roadblocks for the Dreamers to have a path to citizenship.

    June 12, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  21. helicohunter

    There are plenty of reasons why a woman might not want to report a rape. Rape victims go through hell in court, and sometimes the perp isn't convicted even with DNA evidence. Sometimes a teen who is raped by a family member will try to hide the pregnancy out of fear. Young teens are especially prone to living in denial and thinking that they can wish the pregnancy away. I agree that any woman wanting an abortion should get it done as early as possible, but compounding the woes of rape victims isn't right.

    June 12, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  22. woodin59

    Leave it to another republican to put his foot in his month on abortion, women, equality, etc. Doesn't anyone think before they speak any more.

    June 12, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  23. Alan

    Ha....hand me a shovel...no wait!...........these guys are doing a great job of burying themselves..lol...goodbye GOP

    June 12, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  24. rs

    Another freakin' idiot Republican trying to justify forcing women to bear rapists' children. Sick. Sick and inhuman. You think after the beating Akin and Mourdoch took these fools would learn. And they wonder why the only demographic they lead in votes is old, white, males. Simply amazing.
    Thanks for giving Arizona yet another black eye Franks.

    June 12, 2013 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  25. Dan

    Just stop talking. If every life is sacred, let's start investing in programs that make life better and safer for those who are most likely to be the victims of homicide, and for those who can't afford healthcare. Let's find out the broadest reasons that people want abortions and help them see a brighter future instead of simply attempting to restrict access. But that takes real commitment.

    June 12, 2013 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
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